Very quiet

September 15, 2014

15 September 2014 Very Quiet

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A sunny but cool day.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast wt up gammon for tea and her back pain is still there.


Sir Philip Dowson – obituary

Sir Philip Dowson was an architect whose practical Modernism reinvigorated Oxbridge quads but riled the Prince of Wales

Sir Philip Dowson

Sir Philip Dowson

7:29PM BST 14 Sep 2014


Sir Philip Dowson, who has died aged 90, was one of Britain’s most prominent post-war architects and, in later life, president of the Royal Academy of Arts (1993-99).

A realist as much as a Modernist, he designed buildings with an eye on their proposed function. As a result he was to become the architect to whom Britain’s universities, cultural institutions and blue-chip corporations turned when they required a new wing, library or headquarters.

Dowson was one of the driving forces — as chief architect — at Arup Associates, an innovative and collaborative team of influential architects, engineers and quantity surveyors. His aim was to maintain a scientific and rational approach; in addition to the function of a space, construction techniques and the character of materials were the foundation blocks of his designs.

Dowson’s projects ranged from the redevelopment of the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane, London, to new Oxbridge builds — including student rooms at St John’s College, Oxford, and the Forbes Mellon Library at Clare College, his alma mater at Cambridge. In all of his work he followed the maxim of his boss Ove Arup: “signature thinking, not signature style”.

Sir Philip Dowson’s plans for the library at Clare College, Cambridge

Philip Henry Manning Dowson was born on August 16 1924 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Educated at Gresham’s School, Norfolk, he spent a year reading Mathematics at University College, Oxford, before joining the Royal Navy in 1943. He served in both the Atlantic and Pacific theatres during the Second World War. In 1947 he left the Navy and returned to his studies, this time reading Art History at Clare College, Cambridge, after which he trained at the Architectural Association.

In 1953 Dowson joined the engineering firm Ove Arup and Partners as an architect and, in 1963, with Sir Ove Arup, Ronald Hobbs and Derek Sugden, became a founding partner and later chief architect of Arup Associates.

Arup Associates was applauded for the “clarity, logic and elegance” with which they approached building design — a combination that proved popular among commissioning institutions such as universities (Dowson brought his practical Modernism to bear on large campus sites in Oxford and Cambridge).

Key to his approach was the “tartan grid” in which “thin bays of the tartan pattern provided a dedicated zone of structure and mechanical servicing, leaving the larger bays clear for functional use”. It was the perfect fit for laboratories, offices, halls of residence and libraries.

However, one of his early successes was the conversion of an unusual 19th-century building. On commission from Benjamin Britten in 1965, he transformed a vast malthouse at Snape, Suffolk, into a concert hall — incorporating a foyer, stage and auditorium — for the Aldeburgh Festival. Sensitive to the risk of spoiling the building’s character, Dowson succeeded in creating a 134-by-58-by-49ft hall with a new period-looking roof and ash and cane seating. The Maltings Concert Hall was opened by the Queen in 1967.

Snape Maltings Concert Hall, Suffolk, converted by Sir Philip Dowson (ALAMY)

In 1969 he designed The Modern House for Sir Jack Zunz, the British engineer responsible for the roof of the Sydney Opera House. The four-bedroom house on Drax Avenue in Wimbledon — described by English Heritage as “well-crafted, meticulously planned” — is now Grade II listed.

The following year, building work began on Dowson’s design for a block of 156 study-bedrooms within the grounds of St John’s College, Oxford. “It was a bold stroke,” wrote Vaughan Grylls in Oxford Then and Now. The Thomas White Building took five years to build, with the final dormitory formed in “brutal bush-hammered concrete” with an ancient wall retained in its midst. It was a modern building which aimed to “reflect the mood of Oxford and the character of its surroundings and settle into the silhouette of a medieval city.” It won both RIBA and Concrete Society awards.

In the early Seventies Dowson was a mentor to Michael (later Sir Michael) Hopkins, who later recalled: “Working for IBM in Portsmouth on three buildings at the same time, he had one too many. I was working with Norman Foster at the time and Philip suggested that we should take on the design of their temporary offices, 250,000 square feet – a fantastic opportunity. Philip was always very generous with his time and energy in the support of younger architects, taking on the mantle of Hugh Casson, Robert Matthew and Leslie Martin — the architectural knights – as the patron of younger architectural practices.”

Dowson’s project on Brick Lane in the late Seventies — creating a new headquarters for Truman out of their old brewery and two listed Georgian houses — helped set in motion a wider interest in the reconfiguration of derelict historical buildings at the end of the 20th century.

There were frustrations along the way. In the early Nineties the reclusive Hong Kong developer Victor Hwang hired Dowson to realise his vision for the Battersea Power Station — a project which fell through after more than a decade which saw impenetrable planning problems. “I’ve seen three Prime Ministers come and go, and not a single brick has been laid on this project,” Huang said in 2000.

Dowson was also left aggrieved in the early Nineties when Arup’s scheme for the Paternoster Square development next to St Paul’s Cathedral was dropped due to pressure from the Prince of Wales. “It is quite extraordinary what is happening at St Paul’s,” said Dowson.

The Thomas White Building at St John’s College, Oxford (ALAMY)

Dowson retired as a senior partner at Ove Arup in 1990, and three years later was elected president of the Royal Academy of Arts. He had a long association with the Academy, having been elected to it in 1979. He was awarded its Royal Gold Medal for Architecture in 1981. As president of the RA, Dowson’s tenure was notable for his steerage of its acquisition of the Burlington Gardens building behind the Piccadilly galleries (left vacant when the Museum of Mankind moved to Bloomsbury).

He drew up plans for how the two buildings might be joined, thus doubling the Academy’s footprint. “Armed with these, using his reputation as an architect and his ability to be taken seriously by government, he prized the freehold out of them for a modest £5 million,” noted Sir Michael Hopkins. “A bargain then, and the equivalent price today of a very small shoebox in Mayfair.” Construction work to join the two buildings begins in 2015 (using designs by Sir David Chipperfield).

Dowson’s personal interests reflected his professional pursuits: he was an honorary fellow of the Royal College of Art; a governor of St Martin’s School of Art (1975-82); and a trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and of the National Portrait Gallery. He was also a keen sailor.

Among numerous awards and honours, Sir Philip Dowson was appointed CBE in 1969, and knighted in 1980.

He married, in 1950, Sarah Crewdson, who survives him with a son and two daughters.

Sir Philip Dowson, born August 16 1924, died August 22 2014


How laudable of the British nation to raise over £1m in a few hours for the Manchester dogs’ home that burned down (Report, 13 September). Where is the quick response to the 1,400 abused children in Rotherham, and elsewhere? A trust fund could have been set up for these young victims, which might have helped restore them to some kind of health, but more importantly regain some measure of faith in a so-called civilised society. I note that we have a Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, but only a National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
Vera Koenig
Headcorn, Kent

• Peter West is right to say that recruitment to the board of Impress, the new independent press regulator, should be open and fair (Letters, 11 September). That is why candidates for the board will be assessed against transparent criteria, such as their experience at “a senior level in a public or professional capacity”. This includes the private and voluntary sectors. However, Mr West is wrong to describe this as a “public appointment”. Impress is an independent non-profit organisation, unconstrained by political or commercial interests. Its aim is to promote press freedom and ethical journalism by upholding the code of practice. This is an important and challenging role, and we expect the board to include suitably qualified members from diverse backgrounds.
Jonathan Heawood
The Impress Project

• None of the discussions of recent Anglo-Irish politics that have appeared following the death of Ian Paisley (Report, Opinion, Obituary, 13 September) acknowledge the contribution to the Good Friday agreement of Riverdance impresario Michael Flatley; he it was who came up with the crucial principle that they should keep their arms, but not use them.
Percival Turnbull
Barnard Castle, County Durham

• On the whole I like the paper’s new look, but I can’t cope with the Letters page on the left.
Sue Leyland
Hunmanby, North Yorkshire

A Scottish Saltire flag flies on the border with England A Scottish Saltire flag flies on the border with England. ‘It is not Scotland that has chosen to separate itself from the UK: rather it is the ­London-centric policies of successive UK governments which have departed from the postwar social democratic consensus.’ Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty

It’s heartening that the Guardian sees that the key question in the referendum debate is that “the UK’s validity … must ultimately rest on whether [it] can supply social justice more or less reliably than independence can” (Editorial, 13 September). But your answer to that question is flawed. First, you claim that the political tasks of reducing inequality and protecting the worse off are “surely better done when risks and resources can be pooled across a larger population than a smaller one”. New Zealand, Denmark, Iceland and numerous other small countries show that, despite the apparent logic of your statement, it does not have to be that way.

More fundamentally, if we must rely on the union to deliver social justice, who is going to deliver it? The only possible answer to that question in the current UK political set-up is the Labour party – the party that has abandoned political activism, cosied up to the wealthy, pledged to keep the lowest corporation tax in the G7, supported renewal of the UK’s absurd and obscene weapons of mass destruction, and which is committed to maintaining Tory public spending cuts if elected next year.

But even with that manifesto, Labour’s chances of forming the next UK government are not looking good. So your position requires both a radical shift in Labour’s fortunes and a reversal of many of their current policies.

“Ah,” you will say, “but the SNP is no better.” That is unarguable. But your editorial position falls into the trap of assuming that a yes vote is a vote for the SNP and its policies. The many thousands of lifelong Labour supporters voting yes on the 18th will emphatically reject that interpretation. Those Labour supporters are yearning for their party to actively strategise, campaign and organise for just the kind of policies you think are vital for the future of the people of Scotland – and the UK. But their UK leaders’ agenda precludes that.

Far from being a vote for the SNP, a yes vote on Thursday could pave the way in the Scottish elections in 2016 for a complete realignment of Scottish politics, with many SNP members and supporters reverting to “normal” politics and joining other parties, the Labour party in Scotland rediscovering its roots and its core values, and a Labour-Green coalition posing a massive challenge to the SNP’s current dominance.

This would surely be a good outcome for England, Wales and Northern Ireland too. Both your editorial and John Harris’s piece (It’s not just Scotland where politics as usual is finished, 11 September) recognise that the referendum debate has massively boosted the level of political engagement across Scotland. Far from abandoning like-minded people in the rest of the UK, a progressive independent Scotland could be an inspiration for similar grassroots-based revitalisation of politics south of the border.
Malcolm Spaven
Gladhouse, Midlothian

• As a geordie resident in Scotland I am more sensitive than most to notions of separatism. Yet having now lived through the most stimulating period of political debate I have ever experienced, I must take exception to your editorial stance on the Scottish referendum. When the campaign started I feared a descent into “blood and soil” nationalism of the worst sort, but this has simply not happened.

What I have come to understand is that it is not Scotland that has chosen to separate itself from the UK: rather it is the London-centric policies of successive UK governments – Tory and New Labour – which have departed from the postwar social democratic consensus, to which Scots (and geordies, and scousers) remain steadfastly loyal. It is precisely this departure that saw Labour’s vote in Holyrood elections shrivel in favour of the SNP. Whether or not their claims are sincere, they at least understand Scots well enough to grasp this key insight.

A yes vote would simply formalise a parting of the ways that was started under Thatcher and perpetuated under Blair. As for your claim that “Nationalism is not the answer to social injustice”: that is true of Hitlerite nationalism, but not of Gandhian, and it is the latter which the present debate in Scotland most resembles.
Paul Younger

• So it’s goodbye to the Guardian. Seems like you’ll support autonomy and self-determination for everyone except the Scots. I liked you because you offered many quality columnists, an intelligent and well-intentioned left-of-centre view of the world, and excellent book reviews. But you were also timid, anxious, shockingly London-centric, unchallenging of the status quo and ultimately too frightened of your vested interests and advertisers to declare your support for a small, vibrant, electorally engaged and questioning country that only wants to try and conduct its affairs in a way that is qualitatively different from those of Westminster. I’ve been with you since 1983 when you were handed round the fire at Greenham, and often wished that there was a Scottish equivalent. Well, maybe now there will be. Cheerio.
Alison Napier

• For some time, I have considered the Guardian to be the last bastion of integrity and credibility in an ever more untruthful, immoral and hate-filled UK media. It is therefore with some sadness that I condemn you for completely failing to understand and recognise why many of us in Scotland will be voting yes in Thursday’s referendum. Above all, a yes vote for me is an opportunity for politics throughout the UK to be completely reassessed, where we, the people, can be shown to be strong enough to shake up a system in an informed, peaceful, and democratic way. We have the choice to accept our lot, and condone how Westminster has controlled these islands until now, or we can let it be known that inequality, corruption and social injustice have no place in our society, and that we do not fear the consequences of making this known to our rulers through this ballot.
Ruari Gordon
Corriegills, Isle of Arran


The best hope of the Islamic State (Isis) is that by broadcasting the brutal murder of hostages it will trigger a knee-jerk reaction in Western capitals to engage in military action against them.

Isis will then be able to bring substance to its claim that the West is engaging in a murderous anti-Muslim campaign, with its resultant propaganda acting as a recruiting sergeant to bring yet more disaffected young Muslims to its ranks. We won’t then have 500 UK nationals fighting in Isis – we will have 5,000.

Despite the natural urge to bring these cold-blooded killers to justice, we must avoid playing into their hands by giving them the response their provocations are seeking.

If Isis is to be defeated, it will only be by the Muslim states that border the territory Isis has seized. We should restrict ourselves to assisting these states in preventing the spread of a contagion of barbarity, but we should fall short of our own direct involvement, since this is exactly what Isis is playing for.

Alan Stedall


There are only two ways to get rid of an enemy. One is to kill him; the other is to turn him into a friend. Even sanctions are essentially a slow-motion version of the first, with the disadvantage of leaving survivors who will be more bitter, and so more dangerous than before. The Middle East is an impossible cauldron of hatreds. Do we really think those will vanish, even if – improbably – we achieve any military peace?

A noble example of an alternative, on a tiny scale, has been set in Israel by 40 intelligence servicemen who resigned en bloc, refusing to be used by their government as an aid to oppressing the Palestinians. Their government seems oblivious to the enduring hatred it is engendering for their children and for children’s children in every neighbouring country. And previous interference by powerful outsiders (usually out of selfish interest) has done nothing but harm.

The mindset all over that region seems always to win by confrontation, with no thought to the fires left smouldering under the ruins so generated.

Fighting fire with fire occasionally works – but only leaves a desert. Is that what we want?

Kenneth J Moss



One individual who has seemed to be silent over recent weeks, as turmoil in the Middle East continues, is the Quartet peace envoy Tony Blair.

Perhaps his next role, given the announcement of the Pope’s forthcoming visit to a Muslim country, Turkey, should be his appointment as His Holiness’s envoy to the Islamic Caliphate, or  Isis, as residential Papal Nuncio.

It would be difficult to imagine a more appropriate posting.

Professor David Molyneux

Kingsley, Cheshire


If UK splits, blame Cameron not Salmond

I am Scottish, living with my family in Chippenham for the past 28 years, and am devastated at the prospect of the permanent break-up of the UK.

Readers may feel that this is the fault of Alex Salmond and his Scottish Nationalist Party. Not true. We have always known that the SNP wanted this. The responsibility for this will lie completely with Prime Minister Cameron.

What the majority of the people of Scotland wanted, and asked for, was a third choice to be added, a “middle road” – a Scotland with more devolved powers and responsibilities. But Cameron in his folly made a disastrous political misjudgement and refused.

Then, with a week to go, he jumps up and shouts: “You can have the middle road and the powers.” I sincerely hope it is not too late, but many Scots will take this last-minute change of mind as an insult, by a man who did not listen to what they had asked for at the beginning.

Bill Douglas

Chippenham, Wiltshire


In 1974 a taxman in Kilmarnock was transferred, compulsorily, to Stourbridge in the Black Country. Leaving home for work has been the lot of hundreds of thousands of Scots who, like me, are disenfranchised in this referendum. I am proud and passionate in my love of Scotland. The cemetery in Hurlford, Ayrshire, houses at least four generations of my family. I’m Scottish first but also comfortable calling myself British. I fear for  the future of my country and for the well-being of the  five million people who  live there.

Some points to ponder before voting:

What’s in it for me and my family?

Yes is a vote for Alex because he is basically saying: “Trust me, it’ll be all right on the night.”

Is Jo(e) Scottish Public being asked to pay too dearly for Alex’s place in history and does he really care about the cost?

Division will linger in Scotland, whatever the outcome, but if it’s Yes, will the other 60 million easily forgive the chaos caused and agree currency union?

Is it only me who sees Alex as Kaa in The Jungle Book, swaying and singing “Trust In Me” in an effort to mesmerise his prey?

Nigel Haydon

Stourbridge, West Midlands

A number of grocers have indicated that the cost of groceries in Scotland may rise as a result of the increased distribution costs across a large and relatively thinly populated country.

This would appear to imply that there is currently a cross-subsidy of delivery costs across England/Scotland.

I have not yet heard from these same grocers that a Yes vote would lead to a fall in grocery prices in England. Or could it be that the increased Scottish distribution costs may be quietly added to their bottom line?

Ray Noy



I read your report “Young ones bored, bored, bored by ‘Big, Big Debate’” (12 September) and was highly unimpressed. I was at the debate, and your article does not accurately represent all the students who attended.

Being in my fifth year at school, I am acutely aware of my examinations coming up in May and very conscious of every school lesson I miss; as I’m sure are the other 8,000 students who attended. So it was no trivial day out for many of us; it was a sacrifice that we were willing to make in order to participate in a debate where we would have a chance to learn about Scotland’s choices for the future.

Your article portrayed the students as uninterested and immature and did not even mention the content of the debate or quote any of the extremely intelligent questions and comments put forward by the pupils.

Greta Penny Tobermann


 Scotland’s enemy is not the UK, but centralisation by Whitehall. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, great cities such as Glasgow, Dundee, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol ran their own transport, sewerage, gas, education and other services funded by locally determined taxation. Now we are one of the most centralised states in the OECD, with effectively no locally raised and decided expenditure.

There is a growing appetite for the restoration of genuine local decision-making, which can release a renewed dynamism and innovation in the UK. Cornwall, the North-east and North-west all deserve release from the stranglehold of Whitehall as much as Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Together we can do it – so don’t abandon us now, Scotland.

Neil Colvill


The Royal Bank of Scotland, the Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Bank and John Lewis have all come out against independence for Scotland. These attempts to influence the vote undermine the democratic process; big business should not try to sway people’s votes.

Margaret McGowan


Given Alex Salmond’s penchant for crying “foul”, he has presumably complained that Last Night of the Proms conductor Sakari Oramo’s wearing of a Union flag waistcoat was orchestrated by Westminster?

Peter Kemp

Marlow, Buckinghamshire


On Thursday will it be a matter of “Move Over, Darling”?

Andrew McLuskey

Stanwell, Surrey

Paisley fed hatred and division

I don’t recall thinking of Ian Paisley as charismatic, as he is now being described. Rather, his style was hectoring, confrontational and intransigent. It seems extraordinary that he is now being given only credit for his contribution to the peace process, while glossing over the fact that he worked tirelessly to feed the many years of hatred and divisiveness that required that peace process. Speaking no ill of the dead is a fine principle but does not serve history well.

Beryl Wall

London W4

Stop invading my musical privacy

Over recent years I have nurtured my iTunes music library. Now Apple has greatly disturbed this library by dumping a new and unwanted U2 album on to it. It is akin to Bono leaving one of his bibles in every hotel bedroom I decide to stay in.

This is a gross invasion of privacy by a band and company which seek to impose their selective tastes and beliefs on the public.

Keith Nolan

Caldragh, Co Leitrim, Ireland



Would Scotland have voted for greater devolved powers had they been offered?

Sir, Jenni Russell (Opinion, Sept 11) says it was “not obvious” to No 10 that agreeing to Alex Salmond’s request for a devo-max option on the referendum ballot would help to save the Union. But to many people in Scotland at the time it was — blindingly — and the current scramble to belatedly offer devo-max proves that we were right.

It was also obvious that, four years into a cost-cutting Tory government, many in Scotland would have a strong desire to vote for change. Devo-max would have allowed people to vote for that change while also voting to keep the Union.

If No 10 had realised that the referendum was more about listening to the aspirations of the Scottish people rather than a political game to “diss the SNP”, we would not now be at risk of destroying Britain almost by accident.

Dr Bendor Grosvenor


Sir, Philip Collins (Sept 12) derides Britishness. There are many like me who define themselves as “British”. I could hardly be anything else; my DNA is 85 per cent Celt, 10 per cent Viking, 5 per cent Anglo-Saxon. My forebears were Scots Irish before the Scots decamped to Britain, then Scots in Scotland, then Scots Irish as they moved to Ireland. From there my great-grandfather moved to Wales and then Lancashire, where I was born. I now live in Yorkshire. All these places have a part of my heart. Am I just a mongrel or British; I choose the latter.

Sir, The article by Philip Collins reminded me of my mother’s position. She left Prague just before the Nazis arrived and studied in Paris. Coming to London on holiday a week before war was declared, she wanted to return to Paris but was, mercifully, prevented from doing so.

She married an Englishman and, applying for a job at a bank, gave her nationality as English. The comment was: “You may be British, but you will never be English.”

Trisha Ray

Maidenhead, Berks

Sir, What has happened to democracy? There has been the sudden pledge by all three main parties for extensive extra powers for Scotland (“Money Talks”, leader, Sept 12), but if the Scottish vote is “no” then Scotland remains part of the UK. In such circumstances, how do we know if the majority of UK voters do indeed want such powers to be devolved? Those proposals were not in the main parties’ manifestos, so surely a UK-wide referendum should be called.

Peter Cave

London W1

Sir, Peter Forrest (letter, Sept 12) is correct to mention the Darién scheme and the bailing out of the bankrupt Scottish nobility. However, far from being an act of philanthropy it was a clever insurance payment that benefited England too.

Reference is made even now, misty-eyed, to the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France, an alliance in which Scotland often ended up on the losing side. By paying off the Scottish nobility and incorporating them into government, the English parliament greatly reduced the risk of yet another futile second front being opened up by some Jacobite hotheads encouraged by France. England could then wage war against France in Europe without having to look north for a threat from there. French encouragement to insurrection stopped only after the rising of 1745.

R Bain

Boturich, West Dunbartonshire

Sir, The abandonment of Westminster for Scotland amid problems in the Middle East by our leaders is not without precedent. At Whitsun in 1306, Edward I knighted 267 men, including his ill-fated heir, and held the famous lavish Feast of the Swans before setting out to sort out Scotland. “Longshanks”, standing 6ft 6in tall at the end of the hall, vowed over two swans on a golden platter to avenge the recent injuries done by Robert the Bruce, after which he swore to head off to the Holy Land to “fight the infidel”.

He never made it — it was his swansong.

His Hon Judge Simon Brown, QC

Stevington, Beds

Sir, As we are spending a solid amount of time at my school covering Henry VIII’s wars against Scotland to control it in the 16th century, it fills me with frustration that the English are literally just letting Scotland decide if they want to leave. It’s all very modern and progressive of course, but how can it be so casually decided in a vote without us even fighting for the United Kingdom, which we only managed to achieve a few centuries ago with a massive amount of effort.

Rachel Korn (age 17)

London NW4

Sir, The benefits to the UK of moving to Central European Time have been well documented: reduced carbon emissions through people leaving lights and heating off in the evening, fewer road accidents, and a boost to tourism with the longer summer evenings. If Scotland does vote “yes”, the case for the remainder of the UK to move to a different time zone (Janice Turner, Sept 11) would be very strong indeed.

Sir, In the event of a “yes” vote the protective shield over the UK that has been so successfully maintained by UK security services (primarily MI5, MI6 and GCHQ) since 7/7 would be withdrawn from Scotland. MI5 officers would leave the Scottish counter terrorist hubs, taking with them their equipment, expertise and access to the vast reservoir of intelligence held on their databases.

Chris Hobbs

(Retired Metropolitan Police officer)

London W7

Sir, The split in the attitude of academics to independence (Sept 11) is not altogether surprising. Academics from science, maths and engineering disciplines (“no” voters) are more likely to apply evidence-based reasoning and rational thinking to their deliberations rather than the emotive, irrational instincts of their arts and humanities colleagues (“yes” voters).

Dr George Philliskirk

Burton on Trent, Staffs

Sir, If the Scottish sciences are voting “no” and the arts “yes”, where does this leave the philosophers?

Alf Manders

Alcester, Warks

Boris Johnson’s plan to charge motorists by the mile ‘won’t lead to cleaner air’

Sir, Boris Johnson wants to introduce pay-as-you-drive charges (“Mayor would charge motorists by the mile instead of duty”, Sept 13). I live in rural England, where there is very little alternative transport and every household has at least one car. There is a bus, but it doesn’t go to the after-school event, the out-of-town supermarket, the restaurant, the recycling centre, etc.

Making us pay to drive our cars would not be a deterrent but a tax — and that won’t lead to cleaner air.

John Ratcliffe

Cavendish, Suffolk

Cars are one obstruction, granted. But what about wheelie bins left permanently on the street?

Sir, The proposed ban on pavement parking (letter, Sept 12) should be extended to refuse bins that are left permanently on the pavement. How did we arrive at a situation where we regard it as normal that our streets are littered with unsightly bins?

Stephen O’Loughlin

Huddersfield, W Yorks

Sir, We might also follow New Zealand in only allowing parking on the side of the road in the direction of the traffic on that side. That would stop people pulling out across the traffic, with inevitable prangs.

Alan Parry

Rhos on Sea, Conwy

Since trapping more than 300 magpies on our farm over ten years, songbirds have flourished

Sir, I disagree with the claim (letter, Sept 10) that predators have no impact on songbirds. Ten years ago, with the songbirds on our farm vanishing, we declared war on the burgeoning magpie population and have trapped more than 300 in just 150 acres. This year I did not see a single magpie during the breeding season. The result was four broods of songthrushes within 100 yards of the buildings, two of mistlethrushes farther afield — and the hedges and garden are full of finches, linnets, yellowhammers and blackbirds.

IA Smith

Biddestone, Wilts

The Korean War deserves more notice than it has hitherto generally attracted

Sir, You say in your leading article (“Captains of the Soul”, Sept 11): “For a merciful period after 1945 Britain’s service men and women rarely experienced combat”.

No wonder that the Korean War, Britain’s bloodiest since the end of the Second World War, is known as the “the Forgotten War”.

A Gregory



Marcial Boo, the new head of Parliament’s expenses watchdog, has said that MPs should not be paid “a miserly amount” for their services Photo: Eddie Mulholland

6:58AM BST 14 Sep 2014


SIR – You report that MPs’ pay is to rise by 10 per cent. Parish and borough councillors work for the common good, putting in many hours without pay. Of course MPs should not work for nothing, but is it not time they moderated their rewards in the public interest?

Duncan Rayner
Sunningdale, Berkshire

SIR – You quote the head of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority as saying: “We are not used, in the UK, to talking about what we earn.” Many in the UK – from bank executives to quango heads to premier division footballers – are paid far in excess of what they earn; it’s little wonder they prefer to keep quiet.

Philip Ashe
Garforth, West Yorkshire

Joining forces

SIR – Valentine Ramsey (Letters, September 7) misses the point. Size is irrelevant.

Stalin was a brutal dictator who committed many atrocities against his own people. So, too, is Assad. It is illogical to assert that because Stalin’s crimes against humanity were on a larger scale it was therefore all right to join forces with him against a common enemy, but it is not all right to make common cause with Assad.

We would not have defeated Hitler without Russia’s contribution. Likewise, we will not defeat Isil without Assad’s input.

Frank Tomlin
Billericay, Essex

Trailing tractors

SIR – In response to Steve Cattell (Letters, September 7), farmers do usually travel off-road but it is not always practical to do so.

We have a farming industry of which we should be proud and supportive. If Mr Cattell is so agitated by a few hold-ups, perhaps he should move to a city-centre apartment, sell his car and travel by train. Although, of course, he might find himself waiting for one of those as well.

Roger Trembath
Kingsbridge, Devon

SIR – The painful inability of many drivers to position themselves on the road and find the correct gear to effect a swift, safe overtaking manoeuvre of a slow-moving vehicle is shocking to see.

David White
Little Wilbraham, Cambridgeshire

SIR – Next time you end up behind a tractor on a highway, just remember that the driver is not on his way to play golf; he is going to work, which involves feeding the nation. I hope all the people in the cars behind have such vitally important work to do.

Warren Marshall
Buxted, East Sussex

SIR – If townies want to ban our professional tractors from the Queen’s highway, can we country bumpkins ban their pretentious, school-run Chelsea tractors, too?

Barry M Jones
Beckley, East Sussex

Fairy bookmother

SIR – Lynne Truss (Seven, September 7) described finding mysterious pencil marks in the margins of her books. Our dad, aged 90, has people “breaking in” and leaving entire books in the house – sometimes whole piles of them.

He’s never seen them before, let alone read them, so they can’t have been lounging on one of the many bookcases in another room all this time. They come with increasing regularity and cover wide-ranging topics.

Sue Swanston
Amble, Northumberland

Rooney for leader

SIR – The headline Rooney lined up for left-wing role (Sport, September 7) gave me quite a lift. Is Ed Miliband to be replaced by a footballer?

Moira Brodie
Bourton, Wiltshire

Ayes to the right, ewes to the left: a flock of sheep in the Scottish Borders consider the implications of independence  Photo: Phil Wilkinson

7:00AM BST 14 Sep 2014


SIR – The independence debate in Scotland in many ways mirrors the debate about the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union. In both cases there is a desire for political independence and the removal of central interference, but there is also support for economic unity in trade and industry to promote growth and prosperity. Total independence escapes central control but damages economic unity.

The business community in Scotland has been forced to take a strictly neutral stance, but for any business that trades across the border, the choice is clear.

Economic separation would create physical, emotional and financial barriers that would harm our relationships with our customers. The uncertainty of independence would last for many years and lead to capital withdrawal, reduced investment, higher costs and, in some cases, relocation of businesses to England.

Devo max was Alex Salmond’s preference for the ballot paper because it gives the security of economic union with the flexibility of political independence. He has consistently struggled to justify economic separation. He is desperate to keep the pound and intriguingly wants to remain in the EU, his desire for economic unity this time overcoming his aversion to political interference, probably because Brussels is more remote than Westminster.

The independence debate should not be a Scotland-England rugby match with rival supporters jeering and singing songs. We deserve better, and that is political freedom with economic unity. This is devolution, and Scots will get more of it by voting No this week.

Philip G Blake
Dingwall, Ross-shire

SIR – If an independent Scotland joined the EU as a new member, it would not enjoy the same exemption from cross-border freedom of movement as is enjoyed by the United Kingdom. There would thus be no controls over those coming to Scotland from the Continent, including asylum seekers.

The consequence would have to be the introduction of controls at the English border. With frequent passenger trains, 21 road crossings and a rural landscape the task would be immense – in effect, building and manning a new Hadrian’s Wall.

Sir Neville Trotter
Newcastle upon Tyne

SIR – Part of Better Together’s problem is that Alex Salmond won the battle over what the question should be. It is difficult to enthuse people to vote for a negative.

“Should Scotland leave the United Kingdom?” would have at least made voters really consider the consequences of separation.

Nick Kemp
New Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway

SIR – Further to Andrew Gilligan’s disturbing report on the “Seed of the Gaels”, the current nationalist separatist movement might be seen as a kind of 21st-century Jacobite rebellion with Alex Salmond as its Old Pretender. Like the Highland clans at the heart of the Jacobite cause, an atavistic tribalism sadly lurks behind the nationalists’ urge to rip apart the Union and assert their separateness.

Fortunately, the Forty-Five rebellion was defeated and Scotland shared in the economic prosperity of the Union. The flowering in philosophy, the arts and literature that became known as the Scottish Enlightenment grew directly out of this.

One iconic Scot whose genius was nurtured by harmonious relationships with other nations of the United Kingdom was William Thompson, who was educated in Belfast, Glasgow and Cambridge, and proud to take his seat in the House of Lords as Lord Kelvin of Largs, one of the greatest scientists the world has ever known – and definitely a No voter.

Peter Boa

SIR – I have always believed in the right of a nation’s people to determine their own future. However, I am perplexed at one aspect of the Yes campaign. One of its main arguments is for Scotland to be free of Westminster impositions and thus able to determine its own needs and culture, yet one of Alex Salmond’s priorities appears to be establishing membership of the European Union for a newly independent Scotland.

Is this not a case of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire?

Don Micklewright
Weaverham, Cheshire

SIR – In the event of Scotland voting for independence, the UK Government should make it clear that it will not support Scotland’s admission to the EU, unless satisfactory terms are negotiated for leaving the Union. These terms should include a fair sharing of government debt and assets, and also an equitable division of North Sea oil reserves.

Paul Homewood
Stocksbridge, South Yorkshire

SIR – On September 18 1773, which happened to be Samuel Johnson’s birthday, James Boswell records in his Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides that he and Dr Johnson spent the day imploring Lady McLeod not to build a separate house and garden on an attractive site some way away from her husband’s ancestral home on the rock of Dunvegan.

“Madam,” said Boswell, “if you quit this rock, there is no knowing where you may settle.” A warning from history?

Harry Wells
Amport, Hampshire

SIR – The SNP’s popularity has surged because Alex Salmond is good at propaganda. His argument about the scaling back of the health service relies on tenuous facts.

The No campaign has been poor at propaganda. Alistair Darling has not even outlined the consequences of Scotland being out of the EU until we manage to renegotiate entry.

Falling exports to Europe, fewer tax receipts and rising unemployment will increase pressure for government cuts. Decent SNP members will be dragged kicking and screaming towards making the cuts only Tories would previously have considered.

Andrew Vass

SIR – The forthcoming referendum in Scotland is a complete travesty of the UK’s democratic principles. How can the 4 million residents of Scotland dictate whether or not to remain part of the UK?

What is more worrying is the lack of a plan B from Westminster. Will somebody please tell me what the electoral arrangements for 2015 will be? In the event of the Yes campaign winning, I, for one, will be very unhappy if the general election includes constituencies from north of the border.

Don Bailey
Helsby, Cheshire

SIR – There seems to be an assumption that if the Scots vote to secede from the Union, they will take 90 per cent of the oil with them.

Sir Paul Collier, an economics professor at Oxford University, points out that, in the Sixties, the UK government affirmed the principle that when natural resources were found in a nation, they belonged equally to everyone. Thus, if a region of a hitherto united entity should secede, they are entitled to a pro-rata percentage of that resource, related to their population. An independent Scotland would therefore be entitled to 8 per cent of the oil revenues, not 90 per cent.

This is not unfair. When coal was the primary source of energy on these islands, the profits from Yorkshire coalfields benefited everyone in the United Kingdom, including the Scottish. For a region to announce retrospectively that it no longer wishes to adhere to a principle that it once affirmed would undoubtedly meet with international resistance. Were resource secession to be allowed, it would set a highly dangerous precedent and, in resource-rich continents like Africa, the results would be catastrophic and would cost millions of lives.

Adrian Hodgson
Masham, North Yorkshire

SIR – A trainload of Labour MPs arriving in Scotland gave the Scots a fine example of what they will hang on to by voting “No” in the forthcoming referendum. That, plus the Bullingdon club Tories and the nonentity that is Nick Clegg.

If I weren’t excluded from the vote I’d have definitely decided by now.

Mike Adams
Defford, Worcestershire

SIR – Since the expenses scandal, respect and trust for MPs has dwindled across the whole country to almost zero.

Now Scots have something the rest of us lack: the opportunity to rid themselves of the lot of them and start afresh. Unhappily, they will rue the cost of such delightful revenge for centuries.

Bryony Lee
Abergele, Denbighshire

SIR – If Scotland votes for independence this week, it is the English who will finally be free.

Dominic Shelmerdine
London SW3

SIR – Should a Yes vote prevail, Scotland will become just another small country on the periphery of Europe, like Portugal, Greece or Slovakia.

When the oil runs out, as it will during the lifetime of many Scots alive today, Scotland will be economically dependent on whisky and tourism. Replace “whisky” with “ouzo” and we’re back to Greece. Except that, unfortunately, Scotland cannot even offer its visitors Greek weather.

Philip Goddard
London SE19

Irish Times:

Sir, – The Government is examining the income tax rates and the universal social charge in advance of Budget 2015. However, to judge from the comments of Ireland’s all-too-cautious and unambitious Minister for Finance, the hinted changes (if any) appear too modest and uncourageous to make any difference to Ireland’s economy or to economic confidence. The effective marginal rate of income tax in Ireland (including 7 per cent for USC and 4 per cent for employee PRSI) is 52 per cent for individuals, and it is 55 per cent (thanks to an additional 3 per cent USC “levy“) if one has the audacity to be self-employed as a result of setting up his own business. These are rates of taxation that are unquestionably anti-enterprise and confiscatory. We should contrast these Irish rates with the 45 per cent top rate of income tax currently in place in Britain.

What needs to happen is that Ireland sees a budget, this October, which supports growth. Everything in the budget must support indigenous enterprise. To this end, the marginal rates of taxation must be reduced.

Cutting the top rates of tax (not merely changing the point at which people enter tax bands, but actually cutting the top rates) will encourage enterprise and employment because it will allow businesses to retain more of the money that they earn; this means that people can invest in their businesses by hiring more staff and purchasing new equipment, or create new businesses. It would also, crucially, help greatly to encourage talented people to remain in Ireland, instead of emigrating. Merely fiddling with the tax bands (which is a political cop-out, devoid of courage) would do little to change the true perception in Ireland, today, that we are living in a very high tax country, which is a cold house for indigenous enterprise. For the national finances to be balanced, Ireland needs a combination of public spending control and real economic growth. It is now time to work on growth by cutting the marginal rates of tax. – Yours, etc,


Knapton Road,

Monkstown, Co Dublin.

Sir, – As Gideon Levy has outlined to Lara Marlowe, Israeli policy is counterproductive (“The Holocaust makes Israelis think that international law doesn’t apply to them”, September 11th).

I cannot see how there is going to be a two-state solution to the conflict. The total area of Gaza is merely 360 sq km and the West Bank 5,860 sq km. There are at present 564,000 Jewish Israeli settlers in the West Bank. A lasting peace would mean a shared Jerusalem, with both Israelis and Palestinians living there. However, it will not be possible politically to remove the 400,000 or so settlers in other parts of the West Bank.

So, where is the Palestinian state going to be? As there is no possibility of a Palestinian state, this continued fiction allows the Israelis to dominate the area and treat Palestinians as second-class citizens in their own home. Israeli policy is leading effectively to one country containing Gaza, the West Bank and Israel.

In this new state Jewish Israelis will dominate and the Palestinian population in the Gaza and West Bank areas will be treated as second-class citizens, much as non-whites were treated in apartheid-era South Africa.

This scenario poses real problems for the long-term future of Israel. – Yours, etc,


Pine Copse Road,

Dundrum, Dublin 16.

Sir, – Lara Marlowe has spent the past week or so travelling around Gaza and Israel, miraculously discovering en route that the opinions she arrived with were even more correct than even she’d believed them to be. I realise that in these days of advocacy journalism the perception of reportage being the first draft of history seems to have been filed on the “quaint” spike, nonetheless it might occur to the editors at The Irish Times to encourage writers such as Lara Marlowe to ask a question every now and then. For the optics if nothing else. – Yours, etc,


Dundanion Road,

Ballintemple, Cork.

Sir, – Lara Marlowe’s article on Haaretz newspaper columnist Gideon Levy was a brilliant antidote to the recent utterings of the Israeli ambassador. A lone voice speaking the unpalatable truth of crimes committed by his own countrymen in Gaza. A real hero! – Yours, etc,




Co Cork.

Sir, – I was saddened but not surprised to read the optimistic statements from Irish politicians hinting at nice things in the forthcoming budget (“Burton says budget will bring austerity era to a close”, September 10th).

Joan Burton is thinking of a reform of the universal social charge, one of the main income streams of the State. It sounds as if Ms Burton’s idea of reform is a reduction of the charge for some, if not all, people. So even though the country has a debt of 136 per cent of GDP, is still spending more than it earns in tax each month and is completely dependent on the ECB keeping rates low to exist, politicians like Ms Burton are saying the end of the tunnel is here. How nice! How convenient after the recent local election results.

Isn’t it interesting to see how our resolute politicians change their tune when their political survival is at stake? It makes one almost wish the troika was still keeping our brave politicians under control. – Yours, etc,


Greencastle Avenue,

Coolock, Dublin 17.

Sir, – I had a rather surrealistic experience on returning from the Anti-Nato Conference on September 1st. As we landed, I noticed a military aircraft surrounded by military personal. On leaving, I asked the air hostess what a military aircraft was doing so close to a civilian aircraft. I pointed in the direction and she deliberately would not look. She kept on saying she didn’t see anything. I asked once more. She again insisted that she could see nothing. On landing I saw the aircraft very close and I approached a worker driving his buggy. He stopped. “Is that a US military plane with soldiers?” He said, “Yes, but we are not allowed to go anywhere near it.”

When I passed through the passport section I again said to the official, “There is a US military plane outside. What is it doing in a civilian airport?” He replied, “I can not see anything.”

So is our country now inflicted with such denial, and is our culture “see no evil, hear no evil speak no evil”? What is going on at Shannon Airport? – Yours, etc,


St Bridget’s Place Lower.


Sir, – In “An Irishman’s Diary” (September 2nd), Denis Fahey recounts many of the events which marked day one in neutral Ireland of the second World War. The violent thunderstorms that ruined the All-Ireland hurling final also led to not one but three breaches of our newly declared neutrality.

The bad weather forced down two RAF seaplanes off Skerries, in north Co Dublin, and a third in Dún Laoghaire harbour. Those walking the pier must have wondered if was this the start of a British invasion or had the taoiseach, Eamon de Valera, changed his mind and joined Britain in declaring war on Germany. Two weeks later, a large RAF flying boat made a forced landing at Ventry harbour on the west coast but was able to leave after a local mechanic fixed an engine fault. The three seaplanes that were forced down in September were also able to take off with some local help.

There had been hurried conversations between Army officers who had rushed to the scene at Skerries and headquarters in Dublin about whether to seize the aircraft and intern the crews who had violated our neutrality. It was decided not to annoy the British this time.

But the English Daily Telegraph was belatedly tipped off about the landings and in their account quoted a local military or naval officer as making the immortal comment “Who are we neutral against?” This quote went viral in the foreign press, much to the annoyance of the guardians of our neutrality.

An official inquiry reported that “no State official had behaved precisely in the manner alleged by the British newspaper”. In the case of the Skerries incursion “some social contact took place but no statement concerning Irish neutrality had been made; in the second case no conversation of a friendly character took place between our protection officers and the belligerent aviation officers.”

No mention is made of the Co Kerry mechanic who fixed the engine.

The internal report concluded that the British representative, Sir John Maffey, should be told that “unless the British authorities are prepared to close down on the publication of such highly impolitic (and false) newspaper stories, we will be absolutely compelled to intern the next British aircraft and crew that may fall into our hands.”

So don’t mess with a neutral! – Yours, etc,


Maretimo Gardens East,


Sir, – Your review of Gemma Clark’s new book Everyday Violence in the Irish Civil War about the wanton destruction of “big houses” by anti-treaty or sectarian criminal elements in 1921-22 (“The campaign of fire”, September 6th) brought to mind an official notice at Woodstock House, Co Kilkenny.

Woodstock had been occupied by the Black and Tans during the War of Independence, and subsequently by Free State forces. However, it was unoccupied on the night of July 2nd, 1922, when it and its contents were destroyed.

Today in public ownership, Woodstock Gardens are a nice place to visit, even if resources do not permit their maintenance or restoration to the extent merited. The shell of the big house remains. An official noticeboard by the car-park sets out its history.

But this notice omits who torched it, and implies that the “Tans” were somehow to blame. Albeit chronologically correct, it states coyly that, “The main house was burnt in 1922 after the building had been occupied by ‘Black and Tan’ troops.” – Yours, etc,


Herbert Terrace,

Sir, – A 75mg tablet of aspirin is a prescription drug in Ireland. It is not in the UK. It is used for a range of purposes such as thinning the blood and preventing heart disease and stroke. Recent research suggests it may also be helpful in warding off various cancers. Why it is on prescription here is a question a medical expert may answer but clearly such experts in the UK believe that it does not warrant being on their list. In Ireland, on prescription, it costs about €6.70 for a pack of 30. In Boots, in the UK, over the counter, a pack of 100 costs £1.50. – Yours, etc,


Clonard Drive,

Dublin 16.

Sir, – Rather than pretend that the dog littering laws in Ireland are effective, when patently they are not, would it not be better to change the law so that dog walkers and owners are fined for not having a fouling bag when they take their dogs out? At the moment dog owners who fail to clean up after their animals face an on-the-spot fine of €150 but in practice this is extremely difficult to enforce. Whereas if there is no bag, then surely there is no excuse? – Yours, etc,


Bracken Court,




Sir, – It used to be that “nobody is perfect in this world” but the magazines are trying to create the “perfect” image. They photoshop and airbrush the models and celebrities to make them look “perfect” and say it is natural to look that way.

This can make girls have extremely low self-esteem. In reality nobody is perfect. We are all different and wonderful in our own way. Young girls need to realise this. – Yours, etc,




Co Offaly.

Sir, – To set the record straight for Cllr Dermot Lacey (September 12th), it was in fact Noel Dempsey that went to government with the plan for emergency legislation to amend the 1996 Waste Management Act, in 2001. This amendment took the power out of the hands of elected representatives and placed it in the hands of local authority county managers (chief executives). – Yours, etc,


County Hall,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:

Dublin can be heaven with coffee at 11 and a stroll in Stephen’s Green There’s no need to hurry, there’s no need to worry you’re a king and the lady’s a Queen. Grafton Street’s a wonderland, there’s magic in the air . There are diamonds in the lady’s eyes and gold dust in her hair. And if you don’t believe me come and meet me there in Dublin on a sunny summer’s morning… Well sung by Noel Purcell in the good auld days, God be good to him.

I wasn’t in Grafton Street yesterday. However, I’m a proud Dub living in the idyllically set village of Kill, Co Kildare, a long while now and it has won many medals for Tidy Towns including this year.

However, I miss Dublin with its little winding streets and Thomas Street and Moore Street where the craic is great and people are so friendly.

I went to see Ant & Dec in the 3 Arena, known to me as the Point last night.

I travelled from Citywest Campus on the Luas and it was a joy to breeze into town with no traffic to annoy me, the driver on the Luas was so friendly and all the people in the Point were friendly too that I felt like a celebrity or a royal.

No, I wasn’t just an ordinary Joe Soap experiencing the great friendliness of Dublin and its people. I got chatting to people on the Luas and they were the salt of the earth,

I really think Dublin and its people get such bad press. They are the most friendly, courteous/helpful happy-go-lucky people in the country and deserve the highest award available to them. I’ll be travelling on the Luas much more often now to my beloved Dublin of poets, writers and artists.

It’s such a beautiful city it makes me melancholy at the thought of the great days I once had there.

Sure, the Luas is only a stone’s throw away and so easy to travel in and comfortable with a sideshow of wonderful happy commuters.

Ms Terry Healy

Kill Co Kildare


How deeply insulting to suggest that Scotland cannot survive as an independent entity.

The Republic of Ireland has satisfactorily done so with its own elected head of state for decades, so why can’t Scotland? As an Englishman, I find that Britain is ruled by an ambitious clique of Old Etonians with nothing in common with anyone in the land outside the ‘old boy school network’. How nice it would be if we English could have a referendum on the monarchy, and live at ease and on equal terms with our independent Scottish, Welsh, Irish, and even Cornish neighbours.

The bankers who claim Scotland will face financial dire straits if they opt for freedom are the same ones who brought Britain to its knees in 2008. Their avarice is what the Scots (and we English) need to be free of.

Dominic Shelmerdine

H17 Sloane Avenue Mansions

London SW3

I have heard it asked in the run-up to the Scottish referendum whether the people will vote with their heads or their hearts. Thus suggesting one could only vote Yes with one’s heart and not one’s head and vice-versa.

Should Scotland choose to vote Yes on Thursday, I believe they will do so with both the head and the heart.

Róisín Lawless,

Ráth Chairn,

Áth Buí, Co na Mí.

When Scotland finally decides, perhaps politicians Salmond and Sturgeon can relax … a fishing trip maybe ?

Tom Gilsenan

Beaumont D9

Congratulations to Robert Fisk on his article comparing present-day Ireland and what Scotland may look like if it votes for independence.

The only firm conclusion we can come to is that, whatever happens to the currency and the trains at the border, we will all continue to speak English.

A. Leavy

Sutton, Dublin 13

Like many I believe the Scots are far too canny to let their hearts rule their heads, so will vote No in the forthcoming referendum for independence.

However, should they vote Yes it will open a Pandora’s Box not only in these islands by boosting the cause of English nationalism / UKIP but also in the EU, such as Basque nationalism in Spain.

The advocacy of nationalism is like saying drink as much as you like but for God’s sake drive carefully.

As an unworthy disciple of Beethoven I’ve always hoped that his 9th Symphony with Schiller’s Ode to Joy would one day become the anthem of a United Nations of Europe if not all humanity Nationalism, a philosophy that a nation must yield a state, emerged only in the early 19th century but often has appalling consequences as in former Yugoslavia to mention but one example. Finally, Kim Jong-un the supreme leader of the Republic of North Korea is supporting the campaign of the SNP. Enough said already.

Tony Moriarty

Harold’s Cross, Dublin


Ian Paisley, ‘Dr No’, has shaken off his mortal coil. We used to call him the ‘Old Thunderer’ – he certainly left us with a ‘right shower’. They were dark days and he was part of the darkness. In his later years, he saw the light and helped to bring his people onside in the peace process. It doesn’t get him off the hook in my book, for the legacy of bigotry and sectarianism he helped stir. Nonetheless, he grew with age and time, and that is more than can be said about many politicians . Like the rest of us he’ll be missed by many but not by all.

The fact that his party kicked him out because he formed a pivotal partnership with Martin McGuinness was depressing. The first time Big Ian showed genuine vision, his colleagues went into a blind rage and turned their backs on him. He was more than a player, he helped shape the political landscape of the North for better or for worse.

Like him or not you can’t say that about too many.

T. G. O’Brien

Dun Laoghaire Co Dublin

De mortuis nil nisi bonum; nothing only good about the dead. That is the case with most mortals. But Big Ian was larger than life. Now that he is gone, everyone seems to be rushing in to sit in judgment. We all know the facts. But what made him tick? To me he was a total enigma, a very big mixed bag, especially to himself. Requiescat in pace.

Sean McElgunn

Address with editor

While out walking at lunchtime I heard the news of the death or Mr Ian Paisley. I listened intensively to the RTE radio and I thought of how when writing about the death of famous politicians it is said that “Every one of our leaders was a giant among men.” I was born in 1963 and have a great memory. Ian Paisley was a very dangerous individual and was responsible for the fates of hundreds not by the deed itself but by his vitriolic demagoguery which as a young boy growing up in the North I had to listen to.

His words and actions led to the imprisonment of many hundreds of young Protestants who were swayed by the words and actions again of Paisley. I won’t miss him, but again another memory is of my late mother when writing to Paisley about a house for one of my sisters, when I asked her why she was doing that, she said: “Well, Paul, that other shower (ie, the SDLP) won’t do anything for us.”

Paul Doran

Clondalkin Dublin 22

Irish Independent


September 14, 2014

14 September 2014 Quiet

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A sunny but cool day.

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast wt down duck for tea and her back pain is still there.


Sir Donald Sinden, the actor, who has died aged 90, was variously described as “orotund and declamatory”, “magnificently resonant” and “a complete ham”; his talents, admittedly, owed little to method acting, but made him one of the best and most recognisable comedy actors on the circuit.

In a career which spanned 50 years of film and theatre Sinden, to his lasting irritation, became best-known for his work in television, a medium he deplored. But his establishment English demeanour provided perfect casting for comedies exploiting cultural or class differences.

He became a household name when he starred with Elaine Stritch in the LWT sitcom Two’s Company (1975-79), in which he played the feisty American grande dame’s inept English butler. He later repeated his success in the Thames Television sitcom Never the Twain (1981-91), in which he played an upper-crust antique dealer forced into business with a downmarket rival (played by Windsor Davies).

His success on television meant that Sinden’s other achievements, in the film and theatre world, were often overlooked.

During the 1950s, he immersed himself in cinema work, appearing in more than 20 films, including The Cruel Sea (1953), in which he shared top-billing with Jack Hawkins, and Mogambo (1954), a huge safari epic in which Sinden received fourth billing after Clark Gable, Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly, as Kelly’s cuckolded gorilla-hunting husband.

When the British film industry stalled in the 1960s, Sinden’s film career stalled with it. By the end of that decade, however, he had secured a place for himself at the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he gave critically acclaimed performances in leading roles including as the Duke of York in The Wars of the Roses (1963), opposite Peggy Ashcroft as Queen Margaret; Lord Foppington in The Relapse (1967); and as King Lear (for which he won the 1977 Evening Standard Award for Best Actor). In 1979 he played the title role in Othello, directed by Ronald Eyre, becoming the last “blacked-up” white actor to play the role for the RSC.

Sir Donald Sinden has died at his home aged 90

It was, perhaps, the role of Malvolio in Twelfth Night that showed Sinden at his best; yet it is the one that — paradoxically, given that the role is often regarded as a comedy part — he found most difficult to play. When he reread the play in preparation for the RSC production in 1969, he telephoned the director John Barton. “I’m afraid you may have to recast Malvolio,” he said, “I find him tragic.” Barton agreed, and in his exploration of the role, Sinden exposed a whole range of moods, from offended dignity to ebullience and madness. Of Malvolio’s final humiliation, Sinden later wrote: “There is no fight left in Malvolio… the degradation is too great… there is but one thing left for Malvolio — suicide.”

The theatre was always Sinden’s true home, and in the 1980s his passionate interest in its history led to the establishment of the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden. Another great passion was English church architecture, his encyclopedic knowledge of which led to both a television series, The English Country Church, in 1988, and a book on the subject. “My grandfather was an architect,” Sinden explained, “and it was he who told me always to look up. That’s where all the best things are in churches.”

By the 1980s Sinden was firmly established as a television celebrity, a position consolidated by the regular appearances of a Sinden puppet on ITV’s satirical Spitting Image. The puppet represented Sinden as a grotesque parody of “the actor’s actor” posturing theatrically and endlessly pleading for a knighthood.

Sinden was not amused by the caricature. “When have I ever suggested I wanted a knighthood?” he asked. “I don’t watch the programme because I don’t find it in the least funny.” He would accept a well-deserved knighthood in 1997.

Donald Sinden was born in Plymouth on October 9 1923. He suffered constantly from asthma as a child and as a result missed most of his schooling. “I not only did not pass an examination,” he recalled, “I never took one.” At 16 he became an apprentice joiner to a Hove firm which manufactured revolving doors. “I earned 6s 6d a week,” he said, “and enjoyed it enormously.”

Sinden claimed that he had no aspirations towards acting until he was 18. “My cousin Frank was called up for the RAF,” he remembered. “He asked me if I’d do his part in an amateur production at Brighton Little Theatre.” Donald was talent-spotted by Charles Smith, who organised the Mobile Entertainments Southern Area company (known as MESA), a local version of the wartime entertainments service Ensa. “Of course I thought he wanted me because I was miraculous,” Sinden remembered, “but I know now it was because it was wartime and he couldn’t get anyone else.”

Rejected by the Navy because of his poor health, Sinden joined Charles Smith’s company in 1941. “I stayed an actor because I was awfully interested in girls,” Sinden explained. “Actresses were a lot better looking than joiners.” After four years with MESA he spent six months in Leicester with a repertory company and two terms at the Webber Douglas School of Dramatic Art.

Donald Sinden joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-on-Avon for the 1946-47 season. In October 1947 he made his West End debut as Aumerle in Richard II, and in 1948 joined the Bristol Old Vic. He left Bristol to appear as Arthur Townsend in The Heiress, an adaptation of Henry James’s Washington Square. Sinden had nine lines and appeared in all 644 performances of the show.

Donald Sinden in 1953 (REX)

In 1952 he was noticed by the film director Charles Frend while playing the Brazilian Manuel Del Vega in Red Letter Day. “Charles Frend spotted me,” Sinden remembered. “He said he’d always wanted to meet a blue-eyed Brazilian.”

The following year Sinden joined the Rank Organisation and was offered the part of Lieutenant Lockhart in The Cruel Sea, for which he had to spend an uncomfortable 12 weeks filming at sea.

He recalled his time in Africa filming Mogambo as the least enjoyable of his career, largely because of its director, John Ford, whom Sinden described as “the most dislikable man I ever met”. He was particularly irritated by Ford’s peremptory direction techniques: “On one occasion he had Clark Gable backing towards a cliff. Ford kept shouting ‘Further back!’ and Gable just disappeared over the edge. We found him stuck in a tree 15ft below.”

After playing Tony Benskin, a womanising medical student in Doctor in the House (1954), Sinden began to find himself being typecast in comic roles. He played Benskin and characters like him for the next eight years.

When the British film industry began to falter in the early Sixties, Sinden’s film career ended. “It was a bad time for me,” he said. “I was 40, married with two children and no work at all.” His first attempts at a return to the theatre were unsuccessful. He was turned down after Peter Hall had made him audition for the RSC. Sinden later described Hall as a “pipsqueak”.

However, after their initial differences Sinden joined the company and appeared in The Wars of the Roses, an epic amalgam of the relevant Shakespeare history plays, put together by Hall and John Barton, which lasted more than 10 hours and won ecstatic reviews.

Sinden went on to make a name for himself as a comedian and farceur. He appeared as Robert Danvers in There’s a Girl in My Soup at the Aldwych in 1966, and won Best Actor awards for his appearances in the Ray Cooney farces Not Now, Darling (1967), Two into One (1984) and Out of Order (1990). In 1976 he was nominated for a Best Actor Tony Award for his performance on Broadway as Arthur Wicksteed in Alan Bennett’s Habeas Corpus.

Donald Sinden and his wife Diana in 1956

In 1989 Sinden was offered the opportunity to play his long-time hero Oscar Wilde, whose work had always fascinated him, in John Gay’s one-man show Diversions and Delights. In 1942, at a poetry club reading, Sinden had met Lord Alfred Douglas and had been one of the few mourners at his funeral. Thirty years later, when Wilde’s London home was being demolished, Sinden bought the fireplace for his own house in Hampstead.

Sinden continued to perform well into his eighties. From 2001 to 2007 he played Sir Joseph Channing in BBC Television’s legal drama Judge John Deed (starring Martin Shaw and Jenny Seagrove), and he recently appeared in the Gideon Fell mysteries on Radio 4.

Donald Sinden published two volumes of autobiography, A Touch of the Memoirs (1982) and Laughter in the Second Act (1985).

He was appointed CBE in 1979.

In 1948 Sinden married the actress Diana Mahony, who died in 2004. They had two sons, of whom the elder, the actor Jeremy Sinden, died in 1996. His surviving son is the film director and theatre producer Marc Sinden.

Sir Donald Sinden, born October 9 1923, died September 11 2014


Your trenchant editorial calling for prison reform was timely. Unfortunately, the secretary of state for justice refused to acknowledge the problem or the solution when questioned in Parliament two days later. Contrary to the evidence, ministers claim that overcrowding and violence are not a problem; apparently deaths in prison fluctuate regardless, and they seem to think prisoners are getting education. I don’t know if they being deliberately disingenuous or are being poorly advised.

Some 23,000 men are forced to share cells the size of a small bathroom with an open toilet and no ventilation. They are locked up sometimes for 22 hours a day, for weeks on end – no wonder the young men come out fighting. The death rate has increased and so far this year 50 men, women and teenagers have taken their own lives.

HM chief inspector of prisons and public watchdogs relate a miserable story of cockroaches, filth, inertia and violence.

Ironically, financial austerity presented an opportunity to create a thoughtful dialogue with the public about reducing the unnecessary use of prison and investing in what was a very successful and cost-effective probation service. Instead, in the past couple of years ministers have overseen an explosion in overcrowding and a prison crisis while dismantling probation.

This is not civilised. This is not helping people to turn their lives round so they can lead a good and useful life. This is not helping victims. This creates more crime and mayhem when people are dumped back on the streets. This is expensive for the taxpayer.

Frances Crook

Chief executive, the Howard League for Penal Reform

London N1

The prison population in this country is high because a lot of people commit crimes that cause them to end up being rightly imprisoned. The claim that “10,000 women a year go to prison … eight out of 10 have committed a non-violent offence. They shouldn’t be in jail” is utopian. If you actually investigated the individual cases, it would become obvious that custody was wholly justified.

As for your faith in community sentences, it is completely misplaced. Most of the 10,000 women you mention will have been given community sentences as an alternative to custody but either failed to complete them or offended while on them. What are the courts supposed to do then? Send them a strongly worded letter?

The justice system bends over backwards to avoid sending people to prison. Adult restorative disposals, fixed-penalty tickets, cautions, conditional cautions, fines, discharges, conditional discharges, community orders, drug treatment orders, suspended sentences – all are designed as an alternative to custody.

PC 3000 Trevor Williams

Neighbourhood south team Slough police station

There can rarely be a more apposite leader than that you publish condemning our present prison system as a stain on our society. Above all, we must heed the finding in his annual report of Nick Harding, the chief inspector: “The quantity and quality of purposeful activity in which prisoners are engaged have plummeted, the worst outcome in six years.”

It is specifically to tackle this that Prisons Learning TV has been set up in the last two years, with an initial small lottery grant, its aim being to deliver a multi-platform TV channel to prisoners in-cell across the country providing educational programmes that support re-settlement, reduce re-offending, improve employability and increase literacy, numeracy and life-skills.

Yet whilst more than £3 billion is spent annually on prisons, our completely ground-breaking initiative, which is intended to do what government should be doing, receives no state funding; a pittance of this sum would enable us to start to transform the rehabilitative role of our prisons.

Terry Waite CBE, Benedict Birnberg and Antonio Ferrara

Chair, deputy chair and CEO, Prisons Video Trust

London EC4

The people of Scotland have a historic decision to make this week. We urge them to stay part of the United Kingdom. But whichever way the vote goes, things will never be the same.

If, as we hope, Scotland votes no, then five million Scots will be shaping their own taxes, schools and housing benefit. And what’s good enough for Scotland should be good enough for England too. Our local areas need the same freedoms to tackle the big issues for residents, from schools and jobs to welfare and housing.

Establishing an English Parliament would not represent true devolution. Instead, we need locally elected councils driving local economies through devolved taxation, with greater control over council tax and business rates.

We need local areas freed from government-imposed restrictions on house building. And we need funding for regeneration, skills and jobs devolved to local areas where decisions can be based on what businesses and young people actually need. Crucially, this must be underpinned by a fairer funding system for all of the UK.

We urge government to set out a timetable for devolution across England, with a pledge for immediate new powers for areas ready for them now. Without, it millions in England risk becoming second-class citizens.

Cllr Gary Porter, leader of the LGA

Conservative group

Cllr Jim McMahon, leader of the LGA Labour group

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the LGA Liberal Democrat group

Local Government Association

Smith Square

London SW1

Atheists not good on ethics

While Nick Cohen (“It’s not atheists who are endangering lives“, Comment) correctly challenges over-liberal uses of “militant” in “militant atheists”, he misconstrues the basis of reactionary anti-atheism. What makes contemporary atheism more than a neutral bystander is its surprising willingness to put obviously praiseworthy anti-irrationality in the service of less obviously praiseworthy non-rational ideologies, as, for example, when Sam Harris claims: “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them.”

Unfortunately, the new atheists’ refusal to engage with ethical literature, religious or not, except by deriding or ignoring it makes them too vulnerable to accusations of blind-eyed fundamentalism. Morality for Harris et al often boils down to a vague utilitarianism – the greatest “good” for the greatest number – eg, Harris’s horrifically antiseptic argument for torture in the Middle East. Indeed, new atheism is uncannily, yet conveniently, congruent with the ideological basis of western interventionism; Christopher Hitchens’s support for Iraq is common knowledge, Cohen’s less so.

Marek Sullivan


The union’s course is run

Has it occurred to Will Hutton (“We have 10 days to find a settlement to save the union“, Comment) that the union of Scotland and England has come to the end of its natural lifetime? Its purpose in 1707 was to “lock England’s back door” against France. Around 1750 the British empire took off. This gave England and Scotland a common purpose – fortune and glory. The flags came down on the British empire in the 1960s. Independence emerged in Scotland as a political force.

Perhaps Mr Hutton suffered a rush of blood to the head which initiated his vision of “atavistic forces of nationalism and ethnicity” causing the “death of liberal enlightenment”. Can he explain why Scottish nationalism is so dangerous? What about American, French, Irish, Norwegian (etc) and, dare I mention it, British nationalism? They are fine, are they?

John Fleming


Will Hutton is right to say that the UK should now become a federal state, but with six members; not four. These being England, north of the Wash, “Saxland”, south of the Wash, the federal territory of London, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The reason is that the federation would be inherently unstable with one member (England as currently defined) having 84% of the population.

Robert Craig


Terry’s view is far too sunny

Terry Wogan (“This much I know“, Magazine) cannot make up his mind about climate change. Apparently he would like to see a consensus of opinion on the issue. Suppose there was a jury and 199 said guilty and one said I’m not sure, what would the verdict be? That’s how science works. This much he clearly doesn’t know. While he is wondering, most of us are getting on with adapting our behaviour and preparing the world for the change in climate.

Patrick Jones



Don’t give hate so much space

I have just finished reading “The British extremist who backs the caliphate“, News. Why, why do you give so much publicity – two pages with photographs – to Anjem Choudary? Everybody is entitled to have beliefs, but he does not deserve more than a few lines in a corner.

Magdalena Davis



As a Welsh woman, proud of my nationality and protective of the Welsh language and culture, I can sympathise with Scots thinking of voting Yes. We Welsh have also been led for years by Conservative governments that we didn’t vote for. However, like many of my compatriots, I am staunchly Labour and don’t feel that I could vote for any other party, and that includes Plaid Cymru. For me, nationalism and socialism are uneasy bedfellows, and bring to mind the dark shadow of one A Hitler.

The other worry I have about nationalism is illustrated by the scenario being played out in Eastern Europe – tribal fragmentation, based on the principle that one set of beliefs is superior to another’s. Nationalism has a feeling of “I’m alright, Jack” about it, “and sod the rest of you”. Socialism is to do with social justice, the strong helping the weak in society.

I hope with all my heart that Scotland will vote No – breaking up the Union will only add to the fragmentation and uncertainty we are seeing all over the world. We need to celebrate what we have in common, and respect each other’s differences.

Gill Figg


Why do large parts of the British media keep talking about the possible break-up of “Britain” when they mean the United Kingdom? Britain is a geographical term meaning the island of Britain, comprising England, Scotland and Wales. Also, Rory Stewart MP (News, 7 September), reportedly spoke of: “A third of the land mass of the United Kingdom being removed for the first time in 400 years.” Isn’t Mr Stewart aware that 26 out of 32 counties in Ireland left the United Kingdom in the 1920s?

Brian Stowell

Douglas, Isle of Man

Last week’s headline “Scotland: the independence crisis” should have read, “Scotland: the independence opportunity”. The Scots have a chance to shake off the suffocating Westminster malaise, and strike out on a different course, away from a failed state.

Go for it Scotland. Open up those new opportunities.

Michael Williams

Tenby, Pembrokeshire

The real challenge facing Scotland will be to repair the damage done by this referendum in splitting a nation, and how it can be drawn together again in trusting unity, encouraged by some unique political honesty.

Dennis Forbes Grattan

Bucksburn, Aberdeen

Scotland is enjoying the greatest period of prosperity for many years, so why put it at risk for a leap into the dark? Remember: if Scots go independent they will no longer have any say in English politics, English finance, English membership of the EU; they will no longer be able to use pound sterling; they will face new border controls between England and Scotland, etc. It will be a very unstable situation for Scotland and what is left of the United Kingdom: England, Wales and Northern Island, still standing together but, overall, we will all be much weaker. Please, please, please, canny Scots, vote no and stay strong together.

Simon Icke

Aston Clinton, Buckinghamshire

Scotland, like the rest of us, wishes to be released from the shackles of that cesspit of incompetence, egotism, arrogance, near criminality and greed, which is London. The solution is to keep the kingdom “united” but to shift the seat of government to Edinburgh for 25 years, then on to Belfast and then Cardiff, similarly. Birmingham or Manchester might be next. London could be included when it has learnt how to behave.

T J Montagnon

Uppingham, Rutland

Despite two million people marching against the war in Iraq, Westminster MPs still voted to illegally attack the country. This shows that Westminster does not reflect the views of its voters. Only by voting Yes can Scotland be truly free of undemocratic Westminster. It can also look forward to governing itself.

Mark Richards


A note about last  week’s newspaper

Joan Smith’s comment piece last Sunday about Ashya King caused upset to his extended family. Ms Smith did not mean to suggest in any way that Ashya is not very seriously ill, but she does believe the King family were unwise to remove their son from the care of the NHS against the advice of doctors in Southampton. I regret that the piece has generated anger, and sought to present the case as responsibly as possible. The principle of freedom of expression is an important one, and Joan was entitled to voice an opinion on this difficult and  much-discussed case. We wish the King family well over the coming weeks, during Ashya’s treatment in Prague.

Lisa Markwell



Those who favour a ‘no’ vote in Thursday’s referendum say that a greater stress should be placed on the shared history of Scotland and the rest of Britain Those who favour a ‘no’ vote in Thursday’s referendum say that a greater stress should be placed on the shared history of Scotland and the rest of Britain

Scotland’s ties to Britain should make us celebrate, not separate

I AM fed up with hearing Alex Salmond promise voters that separation will solve all Scotland’s ills, with no mention of who will pay the bills (“Yes leads in Scots poll shock” and “A yes vote will usher in a ‘banana republic of tax rises and turmoil’”, News, and “Only 11 days to save the Union”, Editorial, last week).

I’m sick too of him attributing every problem to the Tories and Westminster and the English, when his party has had control over much of Scotland’s affairs. But I also think Alistair Darling’s indisputable economic arguments for a “no” vote urgently need much more positive presentation.

Sure, paint the vivid picture of employers flitting south in the event of a “yes” vote. But simultaneously shout about the emotional high we all gain from Scotland being a leading nation within the UK. Heaven knows there’s a lot to be proud of. Why else are immigrants bypassing countless countries to queue at Calais? Why else are British institutions globally admired?

Scotland and its diaspora are intimately woven into the fabric of Britain, and we have only a few days left to convince the undecided that this is a cause for celebration and retention.
Graeme Crawford, Edinburgh


I was born and bred in Scotland and am a director of a South African-Australian company that has just had to abandon plans to invest in a £50m project expected to have created 100 jobs in rural Scotland. Sadly the possibility of a “yes” vote persuaded our board not to invest. Our business cannot handle uncertainty, and two governments negotiating terms over a two-year period would raise too much risk for us, particularly over whether or not Scotland would continue using the pound.

We will now invest in a more stable environment. Naturally we are disappointed that the Scottish government hasn’t understood what businesses such as ours need.
David Fuller, Brisbane, Australia


I have remained neutral on whether or not the Scots should support independence but am concerned that if the ballot is close, nearly half of those voting will not get their wish: that could cause harm to the social cohesion of a great country. I am also concerned that Westminster politicians could promise all sorts of inducements to encourage the Scots to vote to remain in the Union that could be at the expense of the rest of the UK.

If there is a narrow majority in favour of independence, then our negotiators must put the interests of England, Wales and Northern Ireland first, including the rejection of a currency union. Independence must mean exactly that.
Norman Porter, Crawley, West Sussex


It appears that Salmond will do or say anything to facilitate Scottish separation. However, he still demands that Scotland has the pound, which is run by the Bank of England. How on earth does he expect to run the Scottish economy when he will have to toe the English fiscal line?

To protect the pound, the Bank of England will have to place its considerable foot on the neck of Scotland, which may end up being independent by name but will face a hard time raising cash to survive, let alone grow.
Keith Skinkis Loftus, Manchester


David Cameron spends his time threatening Russia and fighting terrorists in Iraq while occasionally pontificating about the stability of the UK, seemingly unaware that the political entity he leads is potentially about to partly disintegrate. The fight to maintain the UK has been largely left to politicians who — incredibly — have been unable to link convincingly Scottish patriotism with the concept of the Union. Scots who died defending Britain are hardly mentioned at all in this context.

The MPs in Westminster we have voted for and entrusted our country to — whatever their political persuasion — must make an extraordinary effort to maintain the UK they represent.
Dr Marek Dominiczak, Glasgow


Voting “yes” means voting “no” to a British passport, British armed forces protection, the pound, Clydeside shipbuilding for British vessels and holidays in Europe without an expensive Schengen visa.

It really is a very big decision for those lucky enough to vote, and I hope they all — especially the 16-year-olds — use it responsibly and are not swayed by sentiment.
Jane O’Nions, Sevenoaks, Kent


It is claimed the switherers — or waverers — are likely to climb on the bandwagon for a “yes” vote for fear of reprisals by a threatening minority of nationalists. Neither opinion polls nor the vote itself could be affected by such fears: the ballot is secret for that very reason.

This pretence by the media that the threatening conduct is all from the nationalist side is embarrassing. Many will have heard all about the Labour MP Jim Murphy having an egg thrown at him but are unlikely to know that two “yes” supporters were beaten up by a crowd of “no” supporters.
David Clinton Jr, Hamilton, South Lanarkshire


The problem the “no” campaign has is its inability to answer the obvious question: if Scotland is better together, then why isn’t it better together now? A far more effective tactic for it would be to admit that Scotland has been exploited.
David Telford, Fairlie, North Ayrshire


Being a Scot born and raised within sight of the Culloden battlefield, I believe a “yes” vote would be another socialist disaster.

Through no fault of my own, but because of trade union actions, I lost three jobs. I watched in horror as the largely communist-inspired unions destroyed the shipbuilding, steel, coal and motor industries. A “yes” vote may generate initial celebrations, but when the sober truth and the cost is revealed, the party will be truly over.
Maurice Horsburgh, Palm Beach, Australia


While I hope there is a “no” vote, what bribes are our politicians offering the Scots for that vote? Many people in the neglected industrial areas in the rest of the UK and particularly in England will be wondering when it is our turn.
David Booth, Macclesfield, Cheshire


Should the vote be “yes”, will Scotland establish its own time zone, thereby absolving the rest of the UK of the necessity to change the clocks twice a year?
John Farmborough, Rickinghall, Suffolk


If Scotland votes “yes”, Cameron and Ed Miliband are morally bound to resign on September 19. The former for recklessly risking the break-up of the UK, and the latter for failing to rally Labour’s faithful north of the border. A “yes” vote would be the result of Westminster’s arrogance, neglect and ineptitude, ruthlessly exploited by Salmond.
Dominic Shelmerdine, London SW3


The heart dictates tribal loyalties; the mind better understands economics.
Peter Lack, London N10

AS THE biographer of Henry Kissinger (Kissinger’s Year: 1973), may I congratulate Toby Harnden on his insightful article (“We’ve made ourselves bystanders in the Middle East”, Focus, last week)? At the height of the Cold War, Kissinger scored on détente through the relationship he established with the bearish Russian leader Leonid Brezhnev. Now nobody in the West knows Vladimir Putin as well as Kissinger, and he is right to apportion blame to America and Nato for events in Ukraine.

We should have pursued a policy of collaboration, not confrontation — of détente, in fact. Successive regimes in Washington have shown far too little sensitivity towards the imperatives of Russia’s history. It is late but not too late. And we urgently need Russian support over the crisis in the Middle East.

One of your correspondents last week took Kissinger to task for his being soft on Israel. I remember well his remarking to me while I was researching my biography that as the first Jewish-American secretary of state he had many critics to deal with. But the two most severe were from Israel itself and the Jewish lobby inside Washington. Yet it is surely to his great credit that he was able, through his famous shuttle diplomacy, to lay the basis of the peace — whatever its imperfections — that has existed between Israel, Egypt and Syria these past four decades.
Sir Alistair Horne, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire

Leaky EU borders behind tide of migrants to UK
THE comment by Natacha Bouchart, the mayor of Calais, that Britain is somehow responsible for the number of illegal immigrants attempting to get to the ferry terminal are almost laughable (“We’re not to blame for the siege of Calais”, Editorial, last week).

As UK/EU citizens we are subject to tedious passport and customs checks, albeit for “security purposes”, which we understand, but thousands are entering the EU every year seemingly without problems. It appears the external border checks on mainland Europe are as secure as a sieve.

You addressed very clearly the failures of the signatories to the Schengen agreement to control their borders. The police alone cannot be held responsible for restricting the trafficking gangs — the EU countries have to take effective action.

However, action by the EU would probably be as effective as a chocolate fireguard. The Eurocrats have more important issues to address such as banning high-powered vacuum cleaners. That’s cynical, perhaps, but it is an indication of why many people in Britain look at the EU with degrees of doubt.
Neil Davey, Ivybridge, Devon

In your article “Calais police warn migrant dam is about to burst” (News, last week) you quoted the former home secretary Michael Howard as observing: “The principle that every EU member state has subscribed to is that refugees should apply for asylum in the first safe country they reach.”

Putting to one side the probability that many trying to board ferries are illegal immigrants, not genuine refugees, is it not the case that if France were to give asylum to those who qualified for it, they would then be free to relocate anywhere else in the EU — for example, here? And if so, wouldn’t that merely delay the inevitable?

And is it not the case that the only hope Britain has of avoiding being the destination of choice for the increasing army of people flooding into Europe from across the planet is to leave the EU and finally secure our borders?
David Milburn, Dereham, Norfolk

Those at Calais have already travelled across Europe through several countries without stopping in any of them. Is this because, unlike most other European nations, we do not have identity cards, so once the migrants are here, it’s much easier to stay undetected?

I know some people have privacy concerns, but they’ve probably got at least one store card that holds personal information. An ID card could have embedded in it our national insurance and NHS numbers, which would show entitlement to benefits.
Jean Phillips, Cheltenham

Corrections and clarifications
The photograph of the Queen on the front page of the first edition last week was wrongly captioned as “The Queen and Prince Philip attend the Braemar Gathering yesterday”. This was corrected to the Queen and Prince Charles in subsequent editions. We apologise for the error.

The headline “Don’t write a will, all you’re likely to leave behind is confusion” in the Money section last week should have read: “If you don’t write a will, all you are likely to leave behind is confusion”.

The article “The state may threaten but a parent knows when a child is sick” (Comment, last week) stated that an emergency protection order makes a child a ward of court. This is incorrect and we apologise for the error.

In Phil Daniels’s review of the Jaguar E-type Lightweight in Driving last week, the scooter in the picture from Quadrophenia was wrongly captioned as a Lambretta. It was a Vespa.

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to or Complaints, The Sunday Times, 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9GF. In addition, from tomorrow, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) will examine formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines. Click here for full details of how to lodge a complaint.

Amanda Barrie, actress, 79; Ben Cohen, rugby player, 36; Morten Harket, singer, 55; Walter Koenig, actor, 78; Andrew Lincoln, actor, 41; Bernard MacLaverty, novelist, 72; Steven Naismith, footballer, 28; Sam Neill, actor, 67; Renzo Piano, architect, 77; Martin Tyler, football commentator, 69; Ray Wilkins, footballer, 58

1741 George Handel completes Messiah oratorio; 1752 Britain adopts Gregorian calendar, and, for one year only, September 14 comes straight after September 2; 1852 Duke of Wellington dies; 1901 US president William McKinley dies eight days after being shot; 1982 Princess Grace of Monaco dies; 1983 singer Amy Winehouse born.


Photo: Vibe Images / Alamy

6:57AM BST 13 Sep 2014


SIR – As I sewed the last few name-tapes on my daughter’s sports kit, I was unnerved to read Annabel Venning’s article “Colditz for kids, or dorms of delight?”. She says boarding school is outsourced parenting, which feels “wrong”, and finishes by noting that at least her children will have their mum and dad while attending day school. Does this imply that boarding school parents are no longer mums and dads?

The decision to board a child is one that we have not taken lightly; it is not an easy decision emotionally or, at around £10,000 per term, financially. It can be a huge sacrifice and is, undoubtedly, a great privilege. Most parents love their children and want them to thrive in an environment where they feel safe and secure. This is not always attainable in overcrowded, academically competitive city day schools.

Some children yearn for open spaces, education beyond books and a sense of their best being enough.

Sarah Sparkes
London W6

Rolls-Royce recovery

SIR – What kind of society are we living in where recovery is judged by the increase in a minority of its members who are able to buy a luxury car?

Ruth Knowlman
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Wedgwood wonder

SIR – I write as chairman of Pilkington’s Lancastrian Pottery Society to express my concern over the possible sale of the Wedgwood Museum collection (Letters, September 15).

The virtual founder of the Pilkington’s Tile and Pottery Company was William Burton, who trained with Wedgwood. In retirement he wrote a biography of Josiah Wedgwood that is still studied today.

The collection is a wonder and I cannot believe that it will not be saved.

Lawrence Burton
Oswestry, Shropshire

Babes and sucklings

SIR – If prayer and contemplation are part of a church service, noisy children hinder these. Children should be welcomed at family services and not others. I urge church leaders of all denominations not to alienate those who seek peace and wish to hear the sermon.

Dr Jane Donati
Harpenden, Hertfordshire

SIR – The Rt Rev Kieran Conry’s advice reminded me of the time at Mass when a young mother stood up and began to make a hasty exit with her squalling infant.

The priest turned to reassure her: “Don’t worry, my dear, he isn’t bothering me.” “No, Father,” she replied, “you are bothering him.”

Margaret Kimberley
Mersea, Essex

Emotional machines

SIR – The side of a well-known brand of spread claims that it has been “Lovingly made with naturally light buttermilk”.

Do factory machines have emotions now (Letters, September 12)?

Jeni Butler
Southport, Lancashire

SIR – Whenever I see a Co-op lorry emblazoned with “The Co-operative: good with food”, I feel tempted to add “…but not so good with money”.

John Robert Dalton
Middle Woodford, Wiltshire

A Trident submarine makes its way out of Faslane naval base in Scotland Photo: Getty Images

6:59AM BST 13 Sep 2014


SIR – We believe the grave implications of separation from the UK for security and defence-related employment in Scotland have not been spelt out to voters.

The SNP defence plans are unachievable within their planned funding and timescale. Comparisons with Norway and Denmark ignore the fact that both built their defence and security arrangements over decades, under the Nato umbrella and during a time of bigger Cold War spending. It would take decades for an independent Scotland to build up a substitute for the training, administrative and procurement infrastructure presently situated in England.

Nor do we believe that anything like the 20,000 personnel envisaged will be attracted by the career opportunities offered by the Scottish Armed Forces. Rather, the best may leave altogether, seeing the split as an act of destruction and leadership failure. This could lead to the loss of premier-league capability for ever.

Faslane as a Scottish Armed Forces HQ cannot offer the 8,200 jobs the UK Ministry of Defence presently plans, to say nothing of the many other businesses dependent on their custom. Scotstoun and Govan expect to build 13 new frigates for the Royal Navy. Such orders are placed in the UK only by use of the European Union-allowed derogation from single-market rules for national security. The UK might not be able to place this order in an independent Scotland. Scottish Navy orders would be no substitute, nor are exports likely to close the gap.

In summary, we advise that Scottish separation will entail many lost jobs and leave Scotland very poorly defended in an increasingly dangerous world, especially as the SNP’s policy on nuclear weapons could render it ineligible for Nato membership.

Finally, we have all served worldwide with Scots shipmates. UK Armed Forces are known globally and a force for good. Splitting the Union would do them immense damage. Defence and maritime security are vital to the elemental decision facing the Scots, affecting 65 million people and their descendants for ever.

Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope
First Sea Lord 2009-2013
Admiral Sir Jonathon Band
First Sea Lord 2006-2009
Admiral Lord West
First Sea Lord 2002-2005
Admiral Lord Boyce
First Sea Lord 1998-2001
Admiral Sir Jock Slater
First Sea Lord 1995-1998
Vice Admiral John McAnally
National President, The Royal Naval Association

‘Vote Yes and get rid of the Tories’: posters in Govan, which relies on Royal Navy contracts (Getty Images)

SIR – Often overlooked as a consequence of a Yes vote in Scotland is the country’s political culture: Scottish politicians are overwhelmingly socialists.

Short-to-medium-term consequences, for an independent Scotland, of the implementation of socialism would be economically catastrophic. Unlike the United Kingdom as a whole, it will have no Conservative government to pick up the pieces after the socialists crash the economy – only greater ruin as they compound problems by more of the same.

As a Scotsman, I pray that enough of my countrymen have the sense to prevent that nightmare becoming reality.

Phil Coutie
Exeter, Devon

SIR – While the UK regards Scottish independence as a divorce, perhaps the Scots regard it as leaving the family home. But not to worry – they can always rely on the Bank of Mum and Dad.

Peter Meikle
Tavistock, Devon

SIR – Alex Salmond tells us that an independent Scotland would prosper. What does he estimate its net contribution to the EU budget would be; how many votes would it have in the Council of Ministers; and how does he expect this combination to benefit Scotland?

David Hunter
Ashton-under-Hill, Worcestershire

SIR – Often when one contacts HM Revenue & Customs or other government departments it is at an office in Scotland.

It is odd that the No campaign has made little mention of the thousands of UK government jobs that will inevitably migrate south after a Yes vote, with very serious effect on the Scottish economy.

John Wheeler
Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire

SIR – Mr Salmon tells voters that no country with oil reserves has ever failed. How about Venezuela?

Spencer Atwell
Felbridge, Surrey

SIR – Now that it has become apparent that about half of all Scottish people have little economic sense, would it be possible to stop using those reassuringly prudent Scottish accents in advertisements for financial products?

Paul Greenwood
Lincoln’s Inn, London WC2

SIR – If the people of Scotland vote Yes and head off into the sunset, what happens when it all goes horribly wrong? Do we then take them back, pay off their debts, cut up their passports and pretend the whole thing never happened?

Heather M Tanner
Earl Soham, Suffolk

SIR – Will Scotland qualify for foreign aid?

Chris Harding
Parkstone, Dorset

SIR – Under 18s are prohibited from buying cigarettes, alcohol and violent films and video games as well as getting married or serving in the Armed Forces without the permission of their parents.

But next week, for the first time, 16- and 17-year-olds will be able to vote in the United Kingdom – to decide on its future.

No wonder Mr Salmond looks so pleased with himself; once again he has made his political opponents look like fools. Some of us are beginning to wonder if they are.

Rev Francis Coveney
London E18

SIR – To amend the constitution of the United States requires assent by two thirds of Congress and three quarters of the states. On the question of dissolving the United Kingdom, 92 per cent of the people have no vote and, of those that do, assent by only 50 per cent plus one is needed.

Charles Strauss
Leeds, West Yorkshire

SIR – When the No vote is won, church bells should ring out across the country.

Joan Michael
London SW19

SIR – As the Home Counties-based owner of McKenzie Island in the Inner Hebrides, do I declare my own independence, or start applying for my passport now?

Piers Casimir-Mrowczynski
Gustard Wood, Hertfordshire

SIR – If Scotland votes Yes, will “Cape Wrath to Rattray Head including Orkney” no longer be included in the inshore waters forecast that the rest of us hear?

C H Maginniss
East Dereham, Norfolk

SIR – If the Yes vote wins, does it mean we will be spared waking up to James Naughtie every morning in England?

Philip Moger
East Preston, West Sussex

SIR – The thing that bothers me if there is a Yes vote is: will President Putin invade to protect the few Russian-speaking Scots?
John Jacklin
Darwen, Lancashire

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam — National Suicide Day reminds us of the  great distress of a suicide for both victim and those who loved and cherished him or her.

When I was a young man seventy years ago, one morning I was walking past a house and the man of the house came running distressed and in agony. He told me that his wife was lying on the floor of the scullery. Her throat was cut and the gas was on full.

I went in, turned off the gas,  and examined her to see was she alive. Sadly she was dead. So I phoned the police who did everything in their power to help him and were very kind and professional.

I went with him to the parish priest to make arrangements for the funeral. Sadly he said the church condemns suicide and your wife cannot be buried in a Catholic cemetery and have a Catholic service.

I was with the poor man at the time. They had no family. He was on his own they were private people. I had a great friend a  Protestant minister., with whom I differed a lot on politics and religion but that did not interfere with out friendship. Any time a Protestant  friend of mine died, I went to the service in the Protestant church, which, at the time was forbidden by the Catholic Church. Friendship to me was more important than politics or religious bigotry. When a person dies you pray for them in any church.

The minister said he would get in touch with the priest and if the Catholic Church did not provide the respect for the dead he would do it and arrange for  her burial. There is no such thing as a lost soul. God is too merciful for that to happen.

Soon afterwards, the priest got in touch with the grieving widower and  told him he would do the Mass and service and his wife could be buried in the catholic cemetery.

At present there is a lot of change some for the better. People now get cremated  and their ashes  scattered in the place they want. I look back on those years and think how every church was on the one road to  the eternal happiness but went against the teaching of God and His Holy Mother and Father by killing each other over what church they belonged to.  More people were killed over religion than for any other cause.

Hubert Doran

Artane, Dublin 5

Madam — It was heartening to read that the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) were “decisive” in guiding Ireland’s mission in the Golan Heights away from imminent death or capture by Islamist extremists (Jim Cusack and John Drennan article, Sunday Independent, September 7). It was far from the only recent rescue by the IDF.

As the Gaza conflict raged, it set up a border field hospital for wounded Gazan civilians. Warned by Hamas against seeking treatment there, few took advantage of it. A similar source of succour was set up in the Golan Heights for suffering Syrian civilians and Free Syrian rebel forces.

Perhaps such acts as those will open not a few eyes as to the true nature of the IDF and Israel, generally. Though threatened throughout its existence by forces similar to the ones that threatened that Irish contingent, Israel has managed to build a thriving liberal society.

Nonetheless, calumny upon baseless calumny continues to be reflexively directed at Israel. Reality, though, suggests that it should be a nation greatly to be emulated, not denigrated.

Richard D. Wilkins ,    

Syracuse, New York


Writers ‘are wrong’ about Israel/Gaza 

Madam — I am so disappointed in your becoming a cheerleader for the murderous, land grabbing Israelis. I am not anti-Jewish or anti-Zionist, but I am against the destruction of a people. As far as religion goes I don’t give a rattlin’ damn what wall people wail against. The people of Gaza are living in a virtual concentration camp. The indifference of you and some of your columnists to the plight of these poor people is appalling. You are on the wrong side on this one.




Islam is unfair to women

Madam — International lawyer, Dr John Reynolds’s, (Letters, September 7) insistence that Eoghan Harris is wrong and that Gaza is still under Israeli occupation would be welcome news to the oppressed women of Gaza if only it were true.   Because the last time these women were free was when the Israelis did in fact govern Gaza.  As children  they were free to attend school and when they grew up they were free to teach school.

Then Hamas took charge of their future and introduced Sharia Law.  Anyone following the latest flare up between Hamas and Israel cannot have failed to notice the absence of female doctors and nurses at the hospitals and sites in Gaza where men, women and children were killed and injured.

This is Sharia Law in operation where women are not allowed to be anything other than vessels for carrying babies.  But try as I might I cannot find any reference to these wretched women in the missives of Dr John Reynolds.  Perhaps I missed it.

Eddie Naughton,

The Coombe

Dublin 8


No Sharia law in our schools

Madam — Having read Carol Hunt’s article ( Sunday Independent, September 7) and previously read the views of Dr. Ali Selim on our education system and how his community would like to see changes, might I say that we  in Ireland treasure our system whilst at the same time accepting that it may from time to time require reform.

However, there is one reform which we will not tolerate  or accept and that is the  degrading of our female students.   The fact that Sharia Law and the Muslin way of life still promotes favouritism towards male dominance might explain what is happening in the Islamic world today.

Dr Salim,  you are now residing in the West in a democracy . The Islamic community are entitled to open their own schools but they must abide by our state system and this  promotes the same  opportunities for our male and female students.

Adrian Burke,


Dublin, 14



September 13, 2014

13 September 2014 Meg

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A sunny but cool day. Meg comes to do books

Mary’s back much better today, breakfast wt down gammon for tea and her back pain is still there.


Lord Bannside – obituary

Lord Bannside was, as Ian Paisley, the firebrand leader of Protestant oppositon to a united Ireland

Dr Ian Paisley, the former Democratic Unionist Party leader, has died aged 88

Dr Ian Paisley, the former Democratic Unionist Party leader Photo: PA

1:54PM BST 12 Sep 2014


Lord Bannside, who has died aged 88, was better known as the Reverend Ian Paisley, a towering figure who founded Northern Ireland’s Free Presbyterian Church and Democratic Unionist Party.

He took an uncompromising sectarian line before, during and after the “Troubles” — for the outbreak of which he bore some responsibility — yet ended his political life as First Minister sharing power with his old enemy, Sinn Fein.

Paisley was often dismissed by commentators outside the Province as a bigot and a buffoon. His political career was repeatedly written off, yet by its end he had outmanoeuvred his moderate Unionist rivals to become Ulster’s elder statesman, the spokesman for a majority of Unionists and undisputed leader of the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

Few could have imagined such an outcome in the Sixties, when the young, uncouth firebrand first led working-class Protestants in vociferous opposition to the genteel Unionism of Terence O’Neill, then prime minister of Northern Ireland.

His fiery blend of sectarian preaching and political oratory, which drew heavily on the book of Revelation and the spicier parts of the Old Testament, proved highly potent during the 1974 Ulster Workers’ Strike, when Loyalists — enraged by plans for an all-Ireland dimension to their government — brought down the power-sharing administration established under the Sunningdale Agreement.

At the core of Paisley’s being was a visceral loathing of the Roman Catholic Church, which would have done credit to a 17th-century Ranter. He liked to whip his audiences into a frenzy with his rhetoric about “Old Red Socks” (the Pope); the “great whore… with whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication” (the Roman Catholic Church); and about those who “breed like rabbits and multiply like vermin” (its adherents).

He once tried to ban a school production of The Sound of Music because crucifixes were to be carried on stage. As an MEP, he described the EU as a “beast ridden by the Harlot Catholic Church” and part of a plot against Protestantism.

Woe betide the Catholic who incurred Paisley’s wrath: “Priest Murphy,” he apostrophised a cleric who objected in 1958 to his holding meetings in Ballymoney Town Hall, “speak for your own bloodthirsty, persecuting, intolerant, blaspheming, political-religious papacy, but do not dare to be a spokesman of free Ulster men.”

Ian Paisley addressing a meeting in Belfast in 1972 (GETTY)

In Paisley’s version, the story of Ulster was a long catalogue of betrayal by Unionists and Westminster politicians. True Unionists were obliged to fight for themselves: “Come ye out from among them and be separate” had been the dominant biblical text of his childhood and was the essence of his message to his flock. For more than 40 years the self-styled “Voice of Protestant Ulster” articulated the instinctive fears of its grassroots that compromise and conciliation would lead inexorably to a united Ireland. To them, Paisley had saved the Province from this terrible fate.

The inflammatory force of Paisley’s rhetoric was intensified by his physical presence. At 6ft 4in and burly until his later years, he was “the Big Man” to his supporters. Yet he possessed both humour and warmth. As an MP at Westminster and Strasbourg, and later as a member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, he scrupulously served his Catholic constituents as faithfully as his Protestant ones.

In the European Parliament, he cooperated amiably on Northern Ireland matters with his fellow Euro-MP, the nationalist John Hume. “I am anti-Roman Catholic,” he told his supporters, “but God being my judge, I love the poor dupes who are ground down under that system.”

In fact, Paisley held views on abortion and divorce and on the arrogance of the English political class that differed little from those of his Catholic counterparts. When in 1968 he met the Nationalist Bernadette Devlin at a secret tea party, they found themselves in broad agreement about the common grievances of the Protestant and Catholic working classes.

But there was never any hope of uniting in a common cause, for — as Paisley told Devlin — in the last analysis he would rather be British than fair. And since loyalty to the Union and to the Protestant religion were inextricably intertwined in Paisley’s mind, he persisted in his divisive fulminations about the Catholic Church.

Paisley’s anachronistic quality fascinated and appalled English observers, who seemed rarely to speak his name without the precursor “that dreadful man”. In Northern Ireland, however, the view of Paisley — among both Protestants and Catholics — was more complex. In his earlier years, his tireless exploitation of inflammatory rhetoric seriously damaged the image of Unionism abroad, and drove frightened Catholics closer to the IRA. The IRA leader Daithi O Conaill, asked about a rumour that there were plans to assassinate Paisley, replied that it would never happen: “Paisley is the best recruiting sergeant we’ve got.”

Ian Paisley at a rally in Belfast (CAMERA PRESS)

Moreover, while Paisley condemned Loyalist attacks on Catholics throughout his career, in the Eighties he flirted with the prospect of Protestant “people’s militias” and once conveyed journalists to a hillside in Co Antrim at night to witness 500 men in military formation brandishing firearms licences. Loyalist paramilitaries criticised him for inciting them to violence, then distancing himself when it occurred.

The bulk of Unionists felt alienated from the rigidity of Paisley’s massive certainties. But when any whiff of compromise was in the air, his intransigence became a reassurance to people unable to break free from their history. He remained the most popular man in Ulster politics, topping the poll in every European Parliament election from 1979 to 1999.

In the 2003 Assembly elections, Unionists rejected the moderate Unionism of David Trimble and voted for Paisley and his party, not because they cared about his views on the Sabbath, but because they believed Paisley would not “sell out” to the Republic or Sinn Fein.

Ian Richard Kyle Paisley, the younger of two sons, was born on April 6 1926 in the Catholic section of Armagh. His father, whose family was descended on both sides from early 17th-century Scottish settlers at Sixmilecross, Co Tyrone, had served in Carson’s Ulster Volunteer Force during the 1912-13 Home Rule crisis. Later, James Paisley became a drapery store assistant and Baptist pastor who formed his own breakaway church at Ballymena, where Ian attended the Model School and the Technical High School.

In 1942 Paisley enrolled in the Barry School of Evangelism of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, a small sect that had broken with the mother Church in the 17th century. He was ordained by his father in 1946 and appointed minister at the Ravenhill Evangelical Mission Church in Belfast. He became active in the National Union of Protestants, which campaigned for the election of fundamentalist Loyalists to the Stormont Parliament.

In 1951 Paisley was invited to conduct a mission at Crossgar, Co Down, where his uninhibited preaching split the congregation; in consequence he founded the Free Presbyterian Church, with himself as moderator: “We in Crossgar,” he declared, “are going back to the old standards and to preach the faith of our fathers.” Despite the opening in Belfast in 1969 of Martyr’s Memorial, one of the largest modern Protestant churches in Europe, the Free Presbyterian Church remained a minority faith with no more than 10,000 followers by 1981.

Ian Paisley (PA)

The foundation of his Church handicapped Paisley’s political career in that it was never recognised by the Orange movement. Paisley had joined the Orange Order after the war, and by 1951 was chaplain of two of its lodges. But the Orange Grand Lodge refused to recognise his ministry, and he made himself unpopular by launching an attack on a Grand Master who would not condemn the advertising of alcohol. Though he remained in demand as a preacher, Paisley finally left the Order in 1962 in protest at the attendance of the Lord Mayor of Belfast at a Requiem Mass.

Paisley’s dedication to the Lord never inhibited his appetite for publicity. In 1958 he denounced the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret for “committing spiritual fornication with the anti-Christ” by visiting Pope John XXIII. In 1962 he handed out Protestant pamphlets in St Peter’s Square and accused the Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, of “slobbering on his slippers” when he met the Pope. In 1963, after John XXIII’s death, he expressed his satisfaction that “this Romish man of sin is now in Hell”.

Also in 1962, Paisley resigned from Ulster Protestant Action, which strove to keep jobs in Protestant hands and resist the “dark sinister shadow” of Dublin, to “concentrate on Church affairs”. But during the 1964 general election he provoked riots by objecting to an Irish tricolor outside the Republican headquarters in Belfast and sloganising against an ice cream shop of “Italian Papists on the Shankhill Road”.

The next year Paisley headed the opposition to the meeting in Belfast of O’Neill and the Taoiseach, Sean Lemass: “No Mass, No Lemass” read the placards, and “IRA murderer welcomed at Stormont”. In 1966 Paisley’s appeal for a “renewal of the spirit of Carson” resulted in the re-formation of the UVF, which is said to have carried out bomb attacks designed to look like IRA outrages, though Paisley was never directly implicated.

In July 1966, after several attempts, Paisley achieved a modest martyrdom by getting sent to jail for three months after insulting Presbyterian dignitaries for their “Romanising tendencies”. While inside he wrote an “exposition” on St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, which won him an honorary doctorate from Bob Jones University in South Carolina; he took up the title of “Doctor” with enthusiasm.

Out of prison, Paisley agitated against O’Neill with a renewed intensity, attracting an eclectic range of followers including the pederast John McKeague (despite Paisley’s later campaign to “save Ulster from Sodomy”). O’Neill compared the rise of Paisley to the rise of Hitler, doing Paisley little harm with his more enthusiastic followers.

The foundation of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association in 1967, and signs of the IRA’s resurrection, intensified Protestant alarm. In October 1968 Paisley reacted to a civil rights march planned for Armagh by forcibly occupying the city centre. Three months later Loyalist thugs ambushed a civil rights march between Belfast and Derry at Burntollet Bridge, and at the end of January 1969 Paisley was sentenced to another three months in prison for his part in the Armagh fracas.

But it was O’Neill who suffered the consequences. On his release from prison, Paisley pressed him close at Bannside in elections for Stormont. When, that April, O’Neill agreed to universal suffrage in local elections his government began to fall apart, and a series of explosions in Belfast blew him out of office.

The province descended into near anarchy, and in August British troops were sent in to restore order. The British government’s hopes that support for Paisley was not widespread were dashed the next year when, on O’Neill’s elevation to the peerage, Paisley won his seat and went on to take North Antrim at the June 1970 Westminster election.

Paisley turned his fire first on James Chichester-Clark, who had succeeded O’Neill as Prime Minister, and then on his successor, Brian Faulkner. When Faulkner, with the support of Edward Heath’s government, resorted to the catastrophic policy of internment, Paisley denounced it as “the best bonus the IRA ever received”.

The imposition of direct rule in 1972 and the Provisional IRA’s bombing of the Four Step Inn in the Shankill Road gave Paisley the boost he needed to make the final break with moderate Unionism. He established the DUP to unite religious and political fundamentalism, institutionalising the split in Unionism that had long been inherent in his activities.

In March 1973, after a White Paper proposed a new Ulster assembly in which Catholic nationalists would be proportionately represented, Paisley got himself elected to the new body by promising to wreck it. He was as good as his word. The following January, a month after the establishment of a power-sharing executive under Faulkner, Paisley and his followers paralysed proceedings by occupying the seats reserved for it. It took eight policemen to remove him from the chamber. In May, a general strike of Protestant workers brought about the collapse of the executive and a return to direct rule.

Paisley’s rejection of any kind of power-sharing guaranteed political deadlock for the rest of the decade, and in 1979 his intransigence was vindicated when he topped the poll in the first European elections. His tactics were to list the number of Catholics in each member state and present himself as the Protestant champion who would cleanse the Romish “whorehouse” of Strasbourg.

He professed great hopes of the incoming Margaret Thatcher; so when she initiated talks with the Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, on “possible new institutional structures”, he was appalled. “Every man in Ulster,” Paisley bawled, “is now to declare himself whether he is on the side of the lying, treachery and betrayal of the British government, or whether he stands ready to defend, to the last drop of blood, his British and Irish heritage.”

Paisley could not prevent the signing of the 1985 Hillsborough Agreement, under which an Anglo-Irish conference was set up. Unable to sway the two governments, he turned his tactical gifts to undermining their potential allies in the official Ulster Unionists (UUP) under James Molyneaux.

At first Paisley and Molyneaux were united in opposing the Anglo-Irish Agreement and signed a joint declaration to the effect that “Ulster says No”. In 1986 they called a Loyalist strike that ended in a wave of violence. “Mrs Thatcher,” bellowed Paisley, “has declared war on the Ulster people. I have news for the Prime Minister. God is in his heaven. The day of glory for Margaret Thatcher is over. The day when she was hailed in robes of glory has passed. The robing of this woman is going to be the robes of shame, for God will take her in hand.”

That February, in the midst of this abuse, Mrs Thatcher invited Molyneaux and Paisley to Downing Street for a “chat”. It was typical of Paisley that when he emerged, he professed himself impressed by her sincerity — only to revert to polemics when he got home. As unrest escalated, the pact with Molyneaux came under increasing strain. By 1989 the UUP had agreed a policy of forging better relations with the Republic and the pact was broken.

Paisley’s tactics of alternating negotiation and walkout continued to obstruct progress under Mrs Thatcher’s successor John Major. In 1990, and again in 1992, Paisley agreed to join inter-party and inter-government talks, only to quit in protest at what he saw as the Republic’s territorial ambitions in the Province. The Downing Street Declaration of 1993 brought predictable accusations from Paisley that a “secret deal” had been done with the IRA. “You have sold Ulster,” he told Major, “to buy off the fiendish Republican scum.”

After the IRA and Loyalist paramilitaries declared a ceasefire in 1995, however, the British government sensed the tide turning in its favour; and when Paisley went to see Major he got a less friendly reception. Their brief conversation ended with Paisley being summarily ejected from Downing Street.

In deciding to go over the heads of the DUP and negotiate with the UUP under Molyneaux and later David Trimble, Major banked on Paisley misreading the public mood in the Province. And when in 1998, under the new Labour government, the people of Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly in favour of ratifying the “Good Friday” Peace accord, it seemed the tide had turned decisively.

But it was too soon to dismiss Paisley, who took every opportunity to stir up Protestant fears of plots and secret deals, aided by the IRA’s endless procrastination over decommissioning . Devolved government was tried, and collapsed, four times, sitting for 30 months in total. As they felt the ground slipping from under them, the language of Trimble’s UUP and David Hume’s SDLP became more immoderate, but they were out-outraged by Paisley’s DUP and Gerry Adams’s Sinn Fein.

In the 1998 Assembly elections, hopes at Westminster for a poor showing by the DUP were confounded when the party came within an ace of toppling Trimble’s UUP as the largest party. The DUP took two seats in the power-sharing executive (Paisley, like the leaders of the SDLP and Sinn Fein, chose not to become a minister), but its ministers refused to attend meetings of the Executive Committee (cabinet) in protest at Sinn Fein’s participation. The Executive was suspended after the IRA was found to be using Sinn Fein’s Stormont office to track potential targets.

Ian Paisley (REX)

In the 2003 Assembly elections, the DUP overtook the UUP, achieving 30 seats to the UUP’s 27, and in the 2005 general election it very nearly wiped out the UUP, taking nine seats to the UUP’s one.

In October 2005 Paisley was sworn of the Privy Council, an honour to which he became entitled as leader of the fourth largest political party in the British Parliament.

Paisley was disarmingly honest about the strategy that had served him so well since his arrival on the political scene: “I may be in the driving seat, but I don’t necessarily have to drive,” he said. “I can sit in that seat with a poker and give Tony Blair a poke in the ribs, but I don’t need to come up with any formula or solutions. The government created this mess and the onus is on Blair to come up with the solution.”

Having established himself as both the key and the main obstacle to any return to power-sharing, Paisley continued to conduct his adversarial Punch and Judy show with Gerry Adams. Yet there were signs that he was mellowing, which coincided with a bout of serious illness in 2004; that autumn he travelled to Dublin for an amicable meeting with the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.

When, in September 2005, a group under the Canadian General John de Chastelain confirmed that the IRA had finally decommissioned its arsenal, Paisley refused to accept their verdict, insisting: “You can’t build the bridge of trust with the scaffolding of lies and underhand deals.” And in July 2006 he told a rally in Portrush that Sinn Fein would join the government of Northern Ireland “over our dead bodies”.

Yet that October Paisley was party to the St Andrew’s Agreement — involving both the British and Irish governments — in which all parties agreed to fresh Assembly elections and a resumption of power-sharing in return for Sinn Fein accepting the Police Service of Northern Ireland. The elections confirmed him as leader of the province’s largest party, and on May 8 2007, at the age of 81, he took office as First Minister, with Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness, a self-confessed former IRA commander, his deputy. Power-sharing was resumed with remarkably few difficulties, Paisley and McGuinness even attending events together until Paisley stepped down as First Minister on June 5 2008, handing over to Peter Robinson, who would prove more intransigent.

Paisley retired as an MP at the 2010 election, being created a life peer as Lord Bannside , and in 2011 he stood down from the Assembly. That November he gave up the leadership of the Church he had headed for two-thirds of his life, retiring from the pulpit in January 2012. Yet he continued to insist: “I’ll not be changing. I will go to the grave with the convictions I have.”

Ian Paisley married, in 1956, Eileen Cassells. They had two sons, Kyle, a churchman, and Ian, MP for North Antrim and a former DUP assemblyman, and a daughter, Rhonda, a former Belfast councillor and television presenter.

Lord Bannside, born April 6 1926, died September 12 2014


Gary Kempston Illustration by Gary Kempston

Your editorial (Literacy: helping all children, 12 September) is a re-run of the well-wishing and hand-wringing we’ve heard many times before. The question of helping children to read has to involve (among other things) two key matters: availability of a wide range of reading matter that appeals to the children involved; children’s freedom of choice – the “right to browse”, as I call it. Central to this is the provision of books in local and school libraries with qualified staff on hand.

In the neglected Ofsted report Moving English Forward (2012) there was the recommendation that every school should develop a policy on “reading for enjoyment for all”. This has the potential of opening a nationwide discussion about how best to enable all children to read for pleasure. This was not only overlooked by the last education secretary, it was explicitly rejected by the then schools minister when I asked him if this government would be implementing this recommendation. He said that this government’s policy was to avoid interfering in what schools do. I don’t think he was experimenting with irony with that. Three years later, the present secretary of state has that recommendation sitting in front of her. Instead of rolling out homilies about getting grandparents to read to their children, she should go back to her own inspectors’ report and do what they suggest.
Michael Rosen

• Patrick Wintour (Report, 8 September) writes that the UK has the second most unequal level of children’s reading in the EU but, as the English Spelling Society points out on its website: “Italian children who start school at six have repeatedly been found to be able to read and spell most words one year later, whereas English children take 10 years to achieve an adult standard of spelling (Schonell & Schonell 1950; Vernon 1969, 1977; Thorstad 1991).” Is the need for spelling reform going to be complacently ignored much longer by English people who seem incapable of understanding that other peoples look on their treasured institutions (such as an antiquated spelling system) with disdain and disapproval?
DBC Reed

• The closure of public libraries across the country or their divestment from local authority control to volunteers (raising fears as to their sustainability) will surely impact on the success of the children’s reading initiative. I sincerely hope Save the Children UK will acknowledge this, as the success of its project depends upon it. Political leaders are currently allowing the public library service to be dismantled piece by piece, turning a blind eye to children being denied ready access to free books and the expert assistance of library staff.  It is imperative that Save the Children and The National Literacy Trust do not follow suit. They must lobby government for a change of direction, so that their efforts to achieve improved literacy in the country can be realised and not ring hollow.
Shirley Burnham
Swindon, Wiltshire

• Any initiative to improve literacy levels is to be welcomed. I do hope however that the campaign will understand that the key to getting children reading is first to engage them in wanting to read. Literacy levels have remained stubbornly stuck despite a plethora of government initiatives, such as the literacy hour, because children are introduced to the mechanics of reading and writing too early. It is the love of story and the development of language that is needed in the early stages. At our school we find that children learn more quickly and without stress when one introduces reading and writing at age six rather than four, especially when matched with a curriculum steeped in the wonder of storytelling. Good SEN intervention is also needed for some children.

A recent inspection report concurred with our own assessment that by age 11 our children had equalled or exceeded reading levels of children who started learning to read much earlier. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are also more likely to be stressed and therefore adding the pressure of learning to read before they are ready is not going to work, however many hours you put into it.
Frances Russell
Greenwich Steiner School

• Having spent a working life helping Hackney infants, deprived or not, in learning to read, I welcome the launch of the Read On. Get On campaign. But however worthwhile the aim of “galvanising the nation so parents, grandparents and volunteers play their part in teaching children to read” I fear it will prove no more useful than a sticking plaster unless our wealthy but unequal society can also be galvanised to radically reverse the trend to ever-greater levels of economic inequality, which correlate so clearly with children’s unequal reading levels.
Peter Walford

You generally refer to Cameron, May, Gove etc as Conservatives or “the Conservative party”. This may still be appropriate for the formal tone of your news articles. But for your comment pages, editorials and diary column, please adopt the phrase “the effing Tories” (Poll boost for no campaign as PM flies in, 11 September) as standard.
Dominic Rayner

• Following on from Alison Harris’s letter (6 September) on the fate of British war horses left in France at the end of the first world war, in the village in the Creuse where my mother-in-law came from the story was told of the peasant who bought a former British army horse for work in the fields. The trouble was that the horse didn’t understand French.
Robert Nowell
New Barnet, Hertfordshire

The Emmy Awards 2014 - Los Angeles The BBC drama series Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch (r) and Martin Freeman, scooped seven Emmys at the recent awards ceremony. Photograph: BBC/PA Wire

As one who has been a producer and commissioning executive on both sides of the Atlantic for more than 30 years, I thought it would be helpful to provide some context for Charlotte Higgins’s recent reporting on the BBC’s drama output (The BBC Report: Fit for purpose, 21 August). When I was president of HBO Films, I was invited to give the annual Bafta keynote address in 2006. My theme was how, in the early days of HBO, we had co-opted all the best practices of British television and how producers and broadcasters around the world looked to BBC drama as the benchmark by which they judged themselves in terms of “the quality of their work, diversity and richness of their talent”. This remains as true today as it did then. BBC dramas earned 21 Emmy nominations this year – more drama nominations than any of the four US broadcast networks. At the awards ceremony in Hollywood, the BBC stole the night with seven Emmys for Sherlock, beating the six for the final season of the highly regarded Breaking Bad.

One of the themes underpinning Higgins’s thesis is that the range of BBC drama does not live up to the best of American television drama. She mentions as examples Breaking Bad, The Wire and House of Cards. However, the truth is that in Britain we see only a tiny selection of what is produced in America and these series are the exception not the rule. They are not representative of the majority of American television drama. The irony, of course, is that House of Cards was inspired by a BBC series of the same name and to argue that the current BBC drama slate doesn’t include a drama like The Sopranos is, in fairness, something that could be said of any broadcaster or cable company in the UK and the US. BBC dramas like Sherlock, Luther and Top of the Lake stand shoulder to shoulder with the finest American series. The BBC’s The Honourable Woman is currently playing in the US and has received remarkable reviews. The New York Times wrote: “This is a BBC series that is excellent … British actors and writers still have so much unrivalled training and talent that they easily sweep up the best projects. The star of The Honourable Woman is an American actress, but throughout the series British brains and guile get the job done.”

The BBC’s licence fee allows Ben Stephenson and his team of commissioning editors to strive for “high artistic ambitions” (to quote from Higgins) protected in part from the dictates of the commercial marketplace. The BBC drama department’s scale and diversity of output, its support of writers like Hugo Blick or new talent like Jack and Harry Williams, and its ability to make decisions based on creative merit rather than just financial imperatives is unique in the television landscape worldwide. It is something we should cherish and protect. In conclusion, as the executive producer of the upcoming television adaption of Wolf Hall, I would like to clarify that the BBC commissioned the six-hour mini-series long before it was produced for the stage.
Colin Callender
New York

London Fashion Week is a glittering showcase for the fashion industry (Report, 12 September). But fashion’s dark side is kept in the shadows. The event promotes the creativity of the UK’s fashion industry, but is silent over the millions of workers who produce clothes for high-street chains. The British Fashion Council would rather we all forget about those who often work long hours, on poverty pay, in unsafe conditions to produce the clothes we love. We can love fashion, but hate sweatshops and want a fashion week that lives up to its responsibility to all the workers who make the fashion we buy. The time has come for London Fashion Week to mention the garment workers.
Owen Espley Senior campaigner War on Want
Simeon Mitchell Deputy chief executive All We Can

I wish you would stop treating the Scottish referendum like a horse race in a betting shop, focusing only on poll after poll after poll (No campaign holds on to lead with less than a week to go, 12 September). It isn’t just about what Alex Salmond says. It’s about England and Westminster ignoring the whole thing until the last minute, and then threatening to punish Scotland for daring to be democratic. It’s about the disaster in the making for the Labour party of joining in with Cameron instead of drafting intelligent proposals with key people in Scotland that would address the change so many people are desperate for, and not just for Scotland but with all of us, for the whole country. This is about the demand for democratic change and participation in making change happen. Independence will succeed if the mass of the Scottish people currently involved in the debate take it forward by organising themselves and becoming engaged in the development and implementation of good policy and practice and governance.

Suzanne Moore’s column (11 September, G2) on Scotland should have been included on your Comment pages. It’s the best you’ve carried on the subject so far. But what has really been missing is commentary from people from all social classes and backgrounds, and from the social welfare, health, education, science, agricultural, economic and government sectors, talking about what they want change to look like in an independent or a more devolved Scotland.
Marge Berer

• It’s absolutely up to Scotland to decide on their own future, but if they vote yes, please can the rest of the UK have a referendum to decide if we want to share our currency with another sovereign state. That’s not an issue for them to decide.
Juliet Cairns


An important feature of the Scottish referendum is how relatively civilised debate has been. Nearly all the struggles to change the integrity of a nation state throughout history and up to the present day have been horribly violent, marked by terrorism, repression, guerilla or civil warfare. Regardless of Yes versus No, I suggest that nearly all involved can feel proud of the current debate.

Still, complacency would be unwise. Whatever happens on Thursday, difficult times are ahead. It is to be hoped that people and institutions will refrain from panic or reprisals (economic, for example),  for we know from world history that stress can easily lead to violence and violence can easily escalate.

The times require a  spirit of cooperation.

Alan Cottey

Norwich, Norfolk


What has left me astonished by this campaign has been the dog-in-the-manger attitude so frequently expressed south of the border, including in your correspondence columns.

Better Together has repeatedly warned about the dangers of separation in ways that sound like threats.

What a contrast with the SNP’s repeated statement that in the event of independence it would look to England as its best and closest friend.

Why could not Better Together muster the same grace, to promise that whatever the outcome, the remainder of the UK would work with Scotland to ensure future success for all four countries?

David McDowall

London TW10


Protect the NHS from the privateers

I agree wholeheartedly with Dr Staten (10 September), whose letter I read sitting in Meyrick ward of the Whittington hospital, north London. The reason I was sitting there was that on Monday my husband collapsed. The ambulance arrived with seven minutes: his condition was stabilised by the paramedics before a drive to A&E at a speed and with a skill that a racing driver would have envied.

They had radioed ahead and the resuscitation team was waiting. My husband then had a further cardiac arrest. One of the paramedics took me into a side room, gave me tea and tissues and all the necessary information. That team worked on him for most of the night and today he is out of intensive care and being coaxed to recovery. And he is 92 years old.

The NHS is something to be proud of – perhaps the only thing in our greedy and meretricious society. We allow it to be sold off to money-grubbing privateers at our peril.

Betty Cairns

London N22


Dr Staten tells of how he has seen NHS morale fall in the six years since he qualified. Having qualified in 1971, I have seen much greater change.

Patients today have much greater expectations than of yore. You can’t blame them – more treatments are available and they are bound to want the best for themselves and their families. But ours is a society in which people know their rights. Some waste time and money by not turning up for appointments; some are abusive, disruptive, or even physically threatening.

Politicians make great promises. But we have reached the point where all our resources could be poured into healthcare if we chose, leaving nothing for education, defence, policing etc. There is a pretence that by meddling with management structures the NHS can be enabled to continue to improve on a shoe-string. It can’t. Obviously choices have to be made about what can be funded. Our leaders should be honest, and say so.

We all, as potential patients, should remember that with rights go responsibilities. It is our duty to be moderate in our demands, to live healthily and contribute to the avoidance of waste.

And politicians should tell the truth. Either we pay higher taxes for better services, or lower our expectations.

Susan Alexander

Frampton Cotterell,  South Gloucestershire

It is a shame the inflammatory front page question (“Ashya King makes it to Prague – but will the pioneering treatment he receives ever make it to Britain?”, 9 September) was unanswered until the final paragraphs of page 11. Proton therapy centres at UCLH in London and the Christie in Manchester are due in 2018 and will replace the existing overseas referral programme.

Gregory Smyth

London SM5


A rose by any other name?

Peter Jones (10 September) points out that “billions of people have expanded their cultural horizons despite not studying Latin”. While the botanical taxonomy system created by Linnaeus provides an accurate way of naming plants for horticulturalists, it means little to many others. In a public-spirited exercise the RHS website gives the taxonomic name and usually one common name which is helpful to the ordinary gardener.

As a garden tour guide at a National Trust property, I have for many years attempted, without success, to get the Trust to change its policy of taxonomic names only and have replacement labels made with the RHS common name added as secondary information. Including such a label on all plants in public gardens could enhance the educational value of a visit for many garden enthusiasts.

While admiring the brilliant red autumn foliage of a shrub labelled Euonymus alatus, the addition of “Winged spindle” would surely make the experience more memorable.

Peter Erridge

East Grinstead, East Sussex


British railways are a success story

I write in response to James Moore’s claim that “rail privatisation has been a disaster” (10 September).British railways have been transformed over the past 15 years into the safest and fastest-growing in Europe, boosting national productivity by £10bn a year and generating £3.9bn a year in tax, offsetting nearly all of the £4bn government funding.

East Coast is not the only operator to make net payments to government. Train companies have increased the money paid to government to reinvest into more and better services from £390m in 1997-98 to £1.96bn in 2012-13. At the same time, average operator profits have fallen in real terms to £250m.

A recent report by IPPR concurred: “With more rail passengers than at any time since the 1920s, operators paying a net premium to government and… subsidy decreasing… GB rail is on balance a policy success.”

Michael Roberts

Director General,  Rail Delivery Group, London EC1


Would Scotland have voted for greater devolved powers had they been offered?

Sir, Jenni Russell (Opinion, Sept 11) says it was “not obvious” to No 10 that agreeing to Alex Salmond’s request for a devo-max option on the referendum ballot would help to save the Union. But to many people in Scotland at the time it was — blindingly — and the current scramble to belatedly offer devo-max proves that we were right.

It was also obvious that, four years into a cost-cutting Tory government, many in Scotland would have a strong desire to vote for change. Devo-max would have allowed people to vote for that change while also voting to keep the Union.

If No 10 had realised that the referendum was more about listening to the aspirations of the Scottish people rather than a political game to “diss the SNP”, we would not now be at risk of destroying Britain almost by accident.

Dr Bendor Grosvenor


Sir, Philip Collins (Sept 12) derides Britishness. There are many like me who define themselves as “British”. I could hardly be anything else; my DNA is 85 per cent Celt, 10 per cent Viking, 5 per cent Anglo-Saxon. My forebears were Scots Irish before the Scots decamped to Britain, then Scots in Scotland, then Scots Irish as they moved to Ireland. From there my great-grandfather moved to Wales and then Lancashire, where I was born. I now live in Yorkshire. All these places have a part of my heart. Am I just a mongrel or British; I choose the latter.

Sir, The article by Philip Collins reminded me of my mother’s position. She left Prague just before the Nazis arrived and studied in Paris. Coming to London on holiday a week before war was declared, she wanted to return to Paris but was, mercifully, prevented from doing so.

She married an Englishman and, applying for a job at a bank, gave her nationality as English. The comment was: “You may be British, but you will never be English.”

Trisha Ray

Maidenhead, Berks

Sir, What has happened to democracy? There has been the sudden pledge by all three main parties for extensive extra powers for Scotland (“Money Talks”, leader, Sept 12), but if the Scottish vote is “no” then Scotland remains part of the UK. In such circumstances, how do we know if the majority of UK voters do indeed want such powers to be devolved? Those proposals were not in the main parties’ manifestos, so surely a UK-wide referendum should be called.

Peter Cave

London W1

Sir, Peter Forrest (letter, Sept 12) is correct to mention the Darién scheme and the bailing out of the bankrupt Scottish nobility. However, far from being an act of philanthropy it was a clever insurance payment that benefited England too.

Reference is made even now, misty-eyed, to the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France, an alliance in which Scotland often ended up on the losing side. By paying off the Scottish nobility and incorporating them into government, the English parliament greatly reduced the risk of yet another futile second front being opened up by some Jacobite hotheads encouraged by France. England could then wage war against France in Europe without having to look north for a threat from there. French encouragement to insurrection stopped only after the rising of 1745.

R Bain

Boturich, West Dunbartonshire

Sir, The abandonment of Westminster for Scotland amid problems in the Middle East by our leaders is not without precedent. At Whitsun in 1306, Edward I knighted 267 men, including his ill-fated heir, and held the famous lavish Feast of the Swans before setting out to sort out Scotland. “Longshanks”, standing 6ft 6in tall at the end of the hall, vowed over two swans on a golden platter to avenge the recent injuries done by Robert the Bruce, after which he swore to head off to the Holy Land to “fight the infidel”.

He never made it — it was his swansong.

His Hon Judge Simon Brown, QC

Stevington, Beds

Sir, As we are spending a solid amount of time at my school covering Henry VIII’s wars against Scotland to control it in the 16th century, it fills me with frustration that the English are literally just letting Scotland decide if they want to leave. It’s all very modern and progressive of course, but how can it be so casually decided in a vote without us even fighting for the United Kingdom, which we only managed to achieve a few centuries ago with a massive amount of effort.

Rachel Korn (age 17)

London NW4

Sir, The benefits to the UK of moving to Central European Time have been well documented: reduced carbon emissions through people leaving lights and heating off in the evening, fewer road accidents, and a boost to tourism with the longer summer evenings. If Scotland does vote “yes”, the case for the remainder of the UK to move to a different time zone (Janice Turner, Sept 11) would be very strong indeed.

Tim Palmer

Peasemore, Berks

Sir, In the event of a “yes” vote the protective shield over the UK that has been so successfully maintained by UK security services (primarily MI5, MI6 and GCHQ) since 7/7 would be withdrawn from Scotland. MI5 officers would leave the Scottish counter terrorist hubs, taking with them their equipment, expertise and access to the vast reservoir of intelligence held on their databases.

Chris Hobbs

(Retired Metropolitan Police officer)

London W7

Sir, The split in the attitude of academics to independence (Sept 11) is not altogether surprising. Academics from science, maths and engineering disciplines (“no” voters) are more likely to apply evidence-based reasoning and rational thinking to their deliberations rather than the emotive, irrational instincts of their arts and humanities colleagues (“yes” voters).

Dr George Philliskirk

Burton on Trent, Staffs

Sir, If the Scottish sciences are voting “no” and the arts “yes”, where does this leave the philosophers?

Alf Manders

Alcester, Warks

Sloppy and lazy? No, young people who are passionate about making the world a better place

Sir, You report that schools turn out teenagers who are “sloppy, lazy and not up to the job” (Sept 11). In my experience they produce talented young people who are passionate about making the world a better place but who need time, guidance and support to grow into the polished professionals that businesses increasingly expect today.

For some young people the best place to learn about the world of work will never be more time in school. An alternative path can be volunteering and, in particular, a year of full-time voluntary service. The act of “giving back” not only empowers young people and builds confidence but the experience, alongside valuable training, builds exactly the personal and professional skills that businesses are looking for.

Sophie Livingstone

Chief executive, City Year UK

Sir, The problem with schoolchildren dressing sloppily may be down to the odd inclusion of the tie in many uniforms. Almost no one likes wearing one, as evidenced by the speed at which it is ripped off as soon as possible. It is impractical, uncomfortable and dangerous where there is machinery around, and it carries bacteria. Ditch the tie, for adults too, and we may discover that smart dressing is possible without it; there is a middle sartorial way between the extremes of suit and tie or jeans and T-shirt.

Dr Hillary J Shaw

Newport, Shropshire

No fully experimental study on songbird predation has ever been carried out — for fear of what it might find…

Sir, Dr Sir Christopher Lever’s claim (letter, Sept 10) that numerous scientific papers show that predators have no impact on songbirds does not stand up to scrutiny.

The last RSPB review of predation in 2007 only found four out of 254 papers on this subject and they have subsequently been discredited. The University of Reading found in 2011 that no fully experimental study on songbird predation has ever been carried out in the UK.

The shameful truth is that nobody wants to conduct research on songbird predation for fear of finding that we would have to do something about it.

Clive Sherwood

Trustee, Songbird Survival

Diss, Norfolk


The piece of paper found inside one soldier’s knitted sock led to a proposal of marriage

Sir, A relative of mine married the knitter of some socks he received during the Second World War, having found her address on a piece of paper in one of them.

Whether it was a rolled-up ball of brown paper (“Wartime socks”, letter, Sept 11), I don’t know.

Barbara Bligh


The composer’s Fifth Symphony is the Morse equivalent of V, and was broadcast to raise morale during WW2

Sir, It was Courtney Stevens, of Magdalen College, Oxford, who recognised the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (letters, Sept 11 & 12) as the Morse equivalent of V, and consequently the music was broadcast to raise morale and give hope to the occupied countries in the Second World War. The music was played at his memorial service in the college chapel in 1970.

JM Carder

Anstruther, Fife


SIR – The tragic incident of the helicopter crashing into a crane in Vauxhall last year was an accident waiting to happen. For too long, our national and local planning authorities have acted independently of each other, allowing developers to have a field day building high-rise buildings, wind turbines and other obstructions to aviation.

The complexities of flying operations and the Rules of the Air legislation, as well as the general lack of technical knowledge on the part of planners, have led to hazards being approved and only an accident in the heart of London has brought the problem out into the open.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch has recommended that the impartial Civil Aviation Authority be given powers to intervene before planning approval is granted for obstacles that may form a hazard to aviation. This needs to be acted upon immediately to avoid further tragedies under similar circumstances.

Dr Michael A Fopp
Chairman, Air Safety Trust
London WC1

Presents in the post

SIR – Having had a New Zealand pen pal for the past 53 years, I can reassure Geraldine Guthrie (Letters, September 6) that the Post Office does still offer a cheap postage rate to New Zealand. This is now known as “international economy”.

However, New Zealand does not offer a cheap rate to here, so my pal and I have decided not to send presents any more.

Katherine Sweet
Warmley, Gloucestershire

Claim to fame

SIR – Having recently completed a solo two-year tour of the world (including North Korea), I was interested to discover that there are three, and only three, British institutions that are universally known, enjoyed and respected by all countries. These are: the Royal family, Premier League football and Mr Bean.

Matthew Sample
London E14

Sharks vs toasters

SIR – Apropos the report that “Sharks kill more men than women” (Letters, September 6), I once saw a billboard ad that stated that toasters kill more people than sharks.

Intrigued, I searched online: an environment forum on the Reuters website stated that, in 2007, faulty toasters killed 791 people worldwide; sharks, only nine; and 592 people were killed by chairs.

But here’s the real twist: people kill thousands of sharks annually – so women doubtless kill more sharks than men.

Hugh Beynon
Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire

Answering back

SIR – Ruth Morgan (Letters, September 9) is not alone in being concerned at everyday items giving her instructions. Upon arriving at the showroom to collect a new car recently, I was nonplussed to find it covered with a sheet that declared: “I’m ready to go home now.”

I was rather worried that it might not like its new home and refuse to go in.

Jean M Christian
Twitchen, Shropshire

SIR – Whenever I see a bus displaying a sign that reads, “Sorry. I’m not in service”, I want to put a sticker on it that reads, “Never mind”.

Colin A Mercer
Lower Earley, Berkshire

The First Minister’s aspirations for defending an independent Scotland are ill-considered

Sweet talk: Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, champions his cause

Sweet talk: Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland, champions his cause Photo: Getty Images

7:00AM BST 12 Sep 2014


SIR – The first duty of any government is the defence and security of its people.

As a former First Sea Lord, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff and Flag Officer Scotland, let me warn my fellow Scots, who believe that their security will not be impaired through independence, that Alex Salmond is clearly not well-versed in such matters.

Leaving aside the matter of the strategic deterrent, Mr Salmond’s aspirations for the conventional defence of Scotland are ill-considered and incredibly naive.

Furthermore, his plans would undermine the military strength of the United Kingdom as a whole.

Admiral Sir Jock Slater
Droxford, Hampshire

SIR – When all the dust has settled and the United Kingdom, as I hope, continues to have its Scottish wing, the proposed changes to its devolved status will need to be implemented.

The result will be a United Kingdom approaching a true federal system, perhaps the best form of democracy. England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will each have well-devolved assemblies running their countries in an enterprising federal fashion.

A UK government at Westminster should then be supported by all. If the angst and fury of the current scene results in such a conclusion, then perhaps we can say that it was not in vain.

A T Brookes
Charlwood, Surrey

SIR – My father fought for the United Kingdom in the Second World War. He joined Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers in the first week that war broke out. He was 18 years old and had grown up in a poor area of Dundee.

He was evacuated from Dunkirk, and his regiment was put on home duties for a while in Retford, Nottinghamshire. He met my mother when he was put on sentry duty in the wood that bordered the bottom of her parents’ garden.

I and my five siblings grew up in England, but we have visited Scotland and been interested in Scottish culture and history all our lives. We do not want our parent nations to be divorced.

Mollie McCabe
Gorleston, Norfolk

SIR – Being born and bred in the Kingdom of Fife – and proud of it – and having been resident in Cheshire for more than 30 years, I take it as an insult that Alex Salmond decrees those Scots who support the No vote to be unpatriotic. We are patriotic and are proud of our heritage. We are also proud to be part of the United Kingdom.

Bill Arthur
Congleton, Cheshire

SIR – If Scotland votes for independence, will we in the rest of the UK be able to have British Summer Time all year?

Angela Bareford
Woking, Surrey

SIR – Will it now be kilts and Jimmy hats for Cameron, Clegg and Miliband at next week’s Prime Minister’s Questions?

Christian Dymond
Great Corby, Cumberland

SIR – Your correspondent demanding a vote in the forthcoming Scottish referendum (Letters, September 9) on the basis that it affects the whole Union would presumably be happy if the other 27 nations of the European Union were to be given a vote, should what remains of the UK get the chance to leave in 2017?

Chris McCulloch
Fareham, Hampshire

SIR – As the English have clearly rejected currency union with the European Union, why on earth would they be prepared to accept it with Scotland if it votes to leave?

Charles Gallannaugh
Waldron, East Sussex

SIR – Ian Smee asks (Letters, September 11), “What will Nigel Farage call his party if there is no United Kingdom?” A good question, which perhaps is more easily answered than that which would confront the Royal Bank of Scotland if it moved to England.

Richard Shaw
Dunstable, Bedfordshire

SIR – So Scotland would lose RBS and Lloyds. That’s good for Scotland. Those banks have been huge liabilities to the taxpayer, and still are.

Brian Gilbert
Hampton, Middlesex

SIR – Please inform Mr Salmond that I have solved his currency problem: bitcoins.

Geoffrey Crabtree
Hucking, Kent

SIR – It is shocking to learn that the Scots, who are renowned for their prudence and pragmatism, should be on the verge of leaving a successful union, spurred on by semi-mythical medieval memories.

NH Conrad
Tandridge, Surrey

SIR – If Scotland votes for independence, David Cameron should be lauded, not vilified. I cannot see a single positive for England if Scotland remains in the UK.

Scotland is addicted to welfare, over-subsidised by the English taxpayer and over-represented in Westminster.

It adds nothing to the United Kingdom except oil, the taxes from which are now outweighed by the subsidies it receives.

Only Labour wins from Scotland saying No. England has everything to gain from Scotland saying Yes.

Andrew Nicholas
Brookmans Park, Hertfordshire

SIR – Whatever the result, one outcome of this referendum will be a divided Scotland. A regrettable achievement for Mr Salmond.

Dr John Lunn
Hedgerley, Buckinghamshire

SIR – As a Scottish moderate voter likely to vote No, I wonder whether, in the event of a No result, voters should be given time to see how the devolution process is implemented, up to the point where the devolution powers are completely clear.

A further referendum would then be scheduled to allow voters the opportunity of a Yes or No vote on whether to go ahead with independence, in the light of the information then available.

This might prolong the agony for a relatively short amount of time, but on the other hand avoids the risk of a precipitous Yes vote and the unknown associated risks.

Robert Reid

SIR – It would be wrong for the English to blame themselves, their Prime Minister or the leaders of the Better Together campaign if Scotland were to vote Yes on September 18. The Scots demanded a referendum and had to be given one. It was clear from the start that those desiring independence would not listen to the reasons given by the English as to why they should stay.

They think that they would be better off as a separate country, and they may be about to find out whether that is true.

David Harris
London SW13

SIR – John Swinney, the SNP finance minister, said that the people of Scotland were fed up being governed by a party they had not elected.

I know how he feels. I endured 13 years of government by New Labour, a party which I and the majority of voters had not endorsed. That is called democracy in the United Kingdom, but presumably it will be different in an independent Scotland!

Brian Pegnall
Falmouth, Cornwall

SIR – Following a Yes vote and subsequent independence, Scottish residents would be excluded from playing the National Lottery, which is limited to residents of the UK and the Isle of Man. They probably should not be too concerned about this in that, by voting Yes, they are making the biggest gamble of all, with similarly low prospects of a winning result.

Keith Brewer
Farnham, Surrey

SIR – In the event of a Yes vote, which football league would Berwick Rangers play in?

Colin Walker

SIR – If Scotland says Yes, how quickly can we dump Northern Ireland, Wales and Cornwall as well?

Robert Warner
Ramsbury, Wiltshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Lloyds and RBS have weighed into the Scottish independence debate with their threats to move their headquarters to London if the referendum is passed. Certainly this is precisely the sort of move “hard-headed” No voters would have feared and will likely increase their turnout. But will it also swell the ranks of the undecided voters voting Yes because they resent being dictated to by the banks? It will be a sad day for Scotland – and for democracy everywhere – if it turns out the banks had the final say on Scottish independence.

These banks deserve to be entirely wrong-footed by the rest of the UK leaving the EU following Scottish independence and losing their access to EU markets as a result. No doubt that would have them scurrying back to Scotland proclaiming they are Scottish after all.

What price democracy? – Yours, etc,


Red Lane,


Co Wicklow.

Sir, – British prime minister David Cameron identifies himself with the United Kingdom (Front Page, September 11th) in terms of “I care more about my country than I care about my party”. Hogwash! He is an Englishman by geography, race and culture. The UK is an historical legal construct of which he is the head of government, but it is loose talk and spurious affiliation to refer to it as “my country”! – Yours, etc,


Marley Avenue,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – The Irish Times used the word “toff” to describe Scottish aristocracy (“Scottish toffs begin to sweat as referendum counts down”, Front Page, September 12th). Toff is generally seen as a pejorative term to describe the upper classes. Unless The Irish Times feels it has been wronged by the Scottish aristocracy, I see no need for the derision. If your readers wanted judgemental reporting, they would stick to the redtops. Why not simply use the word “aristocracy ” and allow your readers to decide whether or not this is a bad thing? – Yours, etc,


Athlumney Wood,



Co Meath.

Sir, – Mr Cameron, Mr Milliband, please. A little decorum. No need to panic. Take your lead from us. If you don’t get the result you want, have a second, third and, dare I say it, a fourth referendum until you get the desired result. Works very well over here! – Yours, etc,


Hillcrest Court,



Sir, – J Anthony Gaughan (September 12th), commenting on the Scottish referendum, whereby Scotland can embrace or reject independence at the stroke of a pen, claims the securing of Irish independence was at a very high price – “the wasteful and tragic shedding of blood”.

In the general election of 1918 and the setting up of the first Dáil Éireann in 1919, in a wholly constitutional and parliamentary decision without a drop of blood spilled, the Irish Parliamentary Party was swept from power by an electorate that espoused separatism and emphatically rejected not just home rule but British rule also. This decision rendered British rule in Ireland unlawful. The subsequent “wasteful and tragic shedding of blood” which followed was a result of British rejection of the democratic demands of the Irish people. – Yours, etc,


Templeville Road,


Dublin 6W.

Sir, – If David Cameron can raise the saltire over 10 Downing Street (on whose authority I do not know), why cannot English nationalists raise the flag of England alongside the saltire in Edinburgh?

Obviously not without the explicit permission of Alex Salmond, battling valiantly against the Royal Bank of Scotland, Asda, Lord Prescott and his combined England/Scotland football team, heartbroken Dave Cameron (Eton), nice Boris Johnson (Eton), nice Nick Clegg (Westminster), the BBC, etc.

Even The Bruce might have been daunted. – Yours, etc,



Trinity College,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Being married to a good Scots lass, I have been following that country’s referendum debate with some interest for the last two years. The levels of dissimulation, disinformation and outright lying is something which only those of us old enough to remember Pravda can appreciate. However, the one chestnut which really should have been broken off the string by now is that hoary old one that Scotland ending the union would result in permanent Tory governments in Whitehall.

Quite apart from it not being Scotland’s problem, it’s simply claptrap. In the entire history of the party, only once, in 1964, was a Labour government dependent on Scottish MPs to make up the numbers, and that government lasted only 18 months in any event. Tony Blair won three general elections on the backs of purely English majorities, and no other Labour government has ever needed Scottish votes to take power.

There is, of course, another assumption underlying this supposition of permanent Tory majority – that a Labour government would somehow be different.

The Scots, I think, are increasingly falling out of love with that idea, which is possibly why Scottish membership of that party has fallen to an estimated 5,000 or so, compared to the SNP’s 25,000. I say “estimated” because the Labour Party in Scotland has repeatedly refused to reveal its membership numbers.

Perhaps it fears that by doing so, it would destroy that other myth that Scotland is somehow the property of the Labour Party. If so, it is wise. – Yours, etc,


Harmonstown Road,


Dublin 5.

Sir, – If not now, when? – Yours, etc,


Clybaun Heights,



Sir, – So Ian Paisley has passed away. A man who for most of his life never accepted no for an answer and was a born leader has been levelled in death.

He was an astute politician always, making sure to keep his supporters on board. He initially opposed the Belfast Agreement and led his party to become the biggest unionist party in Northern Ireland. However, his friendship with his “chuckle brother” Martin McGuinness alienated him from his supporters. He had to resign the leadership of the church he founded, the Free Presbyterian Church and his own party, the Democratic Unionist Party. While he epitomised intransigence for most of his life, he realised in the end that solutions can only be worked out by talking and compromise. – Yours, etc,


Lower Salthill,


Sir, – Less said the better about a dangerous demagogue whose frequent rants must undoubtedly have provoked much violence. Requiescat in pace might be enough said! – Yours, etc,


Crosthwaite Park South,

Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Late in his career , like Adams and McGuinness, Paisley realised that tolerance, dialogue and discussion were indeed possible and desirable; their united participation in a powersharing government proves that almost their entire careers were abject failures. It is to be sincerely hoped that society in Ireland, north and south, will develop in such a way that another Paisley will not be possible or tolerated. – Yours, etc,


Newtown Road,

Celbridge, Co Kildare.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole (“Why Ireland never faced up to the issue of abortion”, Opinion & Analysis, August 26th) mentioned me and others involved in Plac (Pro Life Amendment Campaign) in unflattering terms.

If Catholic you are “sectarian” and if holding views on other issues, intolerant, in Fintan’s book. On a minor point, the Knights of St Columbanus played no part in Plac. Contrary to Fintan’s assertions, Plac was launched, not by the “head” of the Knights but by the late Cornelius O’Leary, professor of politics at Queen’s University, Belfast.

In the list of Plac supporters, Fintan omits its 12 patrons, six professors of obstetrics and gynaecology and six other obstetricians, including masters of maternity hospitals. In 1983, well over 1,000 GPs signed up support for the amendment. Indeed, it is beyond argument that the medical profession itself was the mainspring of the Plac campaign and also in defeating the amendment on the “substantive issue” in 1992.

The founding groups, whether Catholic or not, had national memberships which facilitated constituency organisation. It was estimated that over 17,000 dedicated people were engaged in leafleting and lobbying for the amendment in the last weeks of the campaign.

Despite Fintan’s assertions, I was never the éminence grise of the Plac campaign. To undermine the credibility of those involved, Fintan brought in other issues many of them peripheral and inaccurately described. The Dalkey School Project, the Rape Crisis Centre, etc, etc.

The case against the Irish Family Planning Association 40 years ago was taken by the State. Afterwards I was attacked in your pages by an Irish Times journalist, now deceased, who was also a founder director of the IFPA. I strongly defended my action in your paper at that time.

The Supreme Court misread the clear words of the Constitution in 1992. It allowed abortion for threatened suicide although no psychiatrist can predict suicide. There are also many studies showing that abortion itself can be a cause of suicide. The Finnish studies show that women having abortions are six or seven times more likely to commit suicide than women who give birth! – Yours, etc,


C/O The Second

Look Project,

Merrion Square,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – While I agreed with much of Mary Feely’s comments on water charges (“Prospect of water charges leaving me high and dry”, Opinion & Analysis, September 10th), I am slightly bemused by her concluding remark that she is waiting to exact revenge at the next election. As the barrage of taxes grows each year, who exactly does a law-abiding taxpayer vote for to represent their interests? If not “the current lot”, it can hardly be “the last lot” nor indeed “the other lot”. I have spent the last five years wondering does any party now represent the approximately 1.5 million taxpayers on low or middle incomes; and I still see no satisfactory answer. Now if that is not the definition of a gap in the market, I must surely be missing something. – Yours, etc,


Orwell Gardens,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – Water meters are being installed at a rate of two a minute (News, September 12th), but not, alas, two a penny. – Yours, etc,


Gledswood Avenue,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – Brian Boyd (“How to make sure nobody steals your naked selfies”, September 5th) suggests that one way to avoid your pictures being leaked is to “stop taking naked photos of yourself”. While I understand the sentiment behind his remark, I disagree with including this as a method of self-protection. Surely if we shouldn’t take intimate photos of ourselves if we don’t want them to be widely distributed, then we should simply not own anything if we want to avoid being robbed? Curiously, I have never heard this suggested by home security experts. Placing the blame on the victim of the crime, the one who took the photos, meant for private viewing only, rather than on the perpetrator of the crime (because it is a crime), is certainly unfair and counterproductive. A better suggestion for improving internet security? Stop invading people’s privacy. – Yours, etc,


Dartry Park,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole (“Brendan Behan – playwright, novelist, terrorist”, Weekend, September 6th) refers to Brendan Behan, rather disparagingly, as a “child soldier” when he was involved in and imprisoned for taking part in an IRA bombing campaign in Britain in 1939. At that time, and for years afterwards, the majority of Irish boys had to leave school at 14. Jobs were few and far between and many had to emigrate to make a living.

I remember that during the 1950s young men wishing to join the FCA would falsely declare their age as 17, although they were only 14 or 15. Indeed, I knew one such who was a corporal by the time he was of the correct minimum age to join. These young men were not “child soldiers”. They knew what they were doing and were inspired by a desire to fight and, if necessary, die for their country. – Yours, etc,


Essenwood Road,


South Africa.

A chara, – Brendan Behan was nearly 17 years of age when he was arrested in Liverpool with his bomb-making equipment in December 1939. His self-authorised mission had elements of farce. The ill-advised bombing campaign had come to an end. Stephen Hayes had replaced Sean Russell as chief of staff of the IRA. The fact that Behan’s 77-year-old “granny” had received a three-year jail sentence in July 1939 for possession of explosives in Birmingham may well have impelled his solo run.

His trial judge lamented that he would have to sentence him to borstal detention because of his age – had he been two months older he would been eligible for a maximum of 14 years of penal servitude. Behan was lucky. He was even luckier to be assigned to a new-style borstal in Hollesley Bay under the enlightened governor, Cyril Joyce.

Fintan refers to Behan as “a child soldier” but he was far removed from the unfortunate children in, say, the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. He was that same age as Sean Lemass in the GPO and a year younger than Kevin Barry.

The enlightened regime in Hollesley Bay owed everything to penal reform and nothing to an inspired plan to rehabilitate aspiring bombers. Behan was the only politically motivated inmate there. – Yours, etc,



Bóthar Bhinn Éadair,

Baile Atha Cliath 5.

Sir, – Micheál Ó Fearghail (September 11th) is correct in his defence of the constitutional rights of parents to choose how their children are educated, including through home schooling. Unfortunately for his case, Article 42 goes on to declare that “The State shall . . . require in view of actual conditions that the children receive a certain minimum education”.

This is important because, separate from the rights of the parents, the child has the right to an education. – Yours, etc,


Coolamber Park,

Knocklyon, Dublin 16.

Sir, – As a teenager travelling home with my father, he always stopped at Cross Guns Bridge, Dublin, and shouted out the passenger window to the paper seller, “Full box Herald”. On arriving home and finding the “box” not to be “full”, he’d throw a fit, knowing well he’d got the “early edition” instead of the “latest edition”. Fond memories. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – While purchasing an Evening Press outside Clerys on a 1960s Christmas Eve, I remarked to the vendor that the newspaper was very thin. “Waddya want, mister?” he glared. “The Book of Kells?” – Yours, etc,


Lower Dodder Road,

Rathfarnham, Dublin 14.

Sir, – Three mentions of Sir Humphrey in your letter pages this week. Is this a record? – Yours, etc,


Ashfield Road,


Dublin 6.

Irish Independent:

Dr Al Qutob (Letters, September 11) says that “Most of the pillars of Western civilization were built up in Muslim Spain” during the Middle Ages. This is nonsense. It is true that Al-Andalus, the Muslim region of Spain was, for a few centuries, more advanced than the rest of Europe, especially in science and medicine, but Arab civilization has been pretty much stagnant for the last 700 years. It is maudlin political correctness to say that Islam helped to shape Europe.

Europe‘s civilization was essentially formed by three things. Firstly, ancient Greece and Rome, which gave Europe its concepts of law, politics and government, architecture, literature and military organization. Secondly, Christianity, which gave Europe its sense of spirituality, collective worship, individual conscience, and the all-important idea of separation of Church and State, which is so sadly lacking in Islam. Thirdly, the Enlightenment and modern science, which has given Europe progress, development, individual liberty and social improvement.

Dr Al Qutob mentions Britain and Jordan today as fine examples of multicultural diversity. What he ignores is that Britain is in cultural chaos, consumed by identity crisis. As for Jordan – the last stable, fairly secular Arab country in the chaos of that wider region – the only reason its diverse communities aren’t killing each other is because the country is held together by the iron fist of secular autocracy.

Frank Giles, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4


Songs of praise

The arrival of our new Primate of All Ireland in-waiting has been a real coup for the credibility of the church. However, his remarkable likeness to the singing priest, Fr Ray Kelly, leads me to wonder whether there has been a serious clerical error.

I am convinced that Archbishop Eamon Martin and Father Ray Kelly are one and the same person. What clinched it for me was the realisation that the new archbishop was described as being musically gifted. His talent for music was reluctantly acknowledged by Rome, as Vatican authorities were warned that the new archbishop was likely to break into song at the most solemn liturgical moments.

The church should come clean, as the current understandable deception cannot be maintained. So far, Fr Kelly’s parishioners have been extraordinarily loyal to the church in pretending that their musically-gifted priest is still with them. A recording of his impromptu rendition of his adaptation of Leonard Cohen‘s Hallelujah is played regularly in his church so that passers-by assume he is still in post.

The philosopher Nietzsche’s had a longing for a God who could dance – he would surely see the appointment of a singing-and-dancing archbishop as the first step in the right direction.

Cardinal Brady was gracious in welcoming his “Londonderry heir”, immediately triggering a spontaneous rendition of Danny Boy from his successor; the congregation of Armagh cathedral raising the rafters as they joined in enthusiastically.

It is my earnest hope that all future appointments to senior posts in the church will require at least a modicum of singing and dancing talent. However, I see no need for them to go viral on YouTube, though clearly it would enhance their prospects of appointment, as is the case in Armagh.

The new archbishop is seen by Rome as a safe pair of feet, and so is not likely to be out of step.

Philip O’Neill, Oxford, England


What about another union?

Whether the Scottish people vote to become independent or to stay part of the UK, it will be interesting to see which political leader goes blue in the face afterwards. Should Scotland decide to go it alone and if Wales got bitten by the leaving bug, we could end up with England, on its own, being just 25 square kilometres bigger than Ireland.

We have more in common with the English than we might care to admit, so perhaps a sort of benign union could be contemplated. And England could bail us out from time to time, like when we were granted €9 billion by British Prime Minister David Cameron after our economy sank without trace.

Robert Sullivan, Bantry, Co Cork


State must tackle homelessness

News that there are now 150 homeless people on the streets of Dublin is disturbing.

Anyone walking the capital’s streets will have noticed the number of huddled figures in doorways are increasing. Gandhi said that we must not look upon a beggar as an obstacle to generosity.

The problem in Ireland is that the state has developed a myopia in the area of homelessness and therefore does not trouble itself to look at them at all.

With winter on the way and freezing nights in prospect, those of us fortunate enough to have somewhere warm and dry to rest our heads should not forget those who now lie in our lanes and alleys and shiver in cold and fear. Rising rents, unemployment, family breakdown, drink and drug-dependency can affect anyone. Most of us do not realise how fortunate we are. Because someone is down on their luck does not make them a non-person to be discarded by society.

It is time our government took the plight of our street citizens seriously.

The incredible work of people like Brother Kevin Crowley and Peter McVerry shows what can be achieved with a pure heart and clear thinking.

W Harpur, Dalkey, Co Dublin


Debt deal deserves praise

Colette Browne suggests that the proposed early repayment of Ireland’s loans from the IMF would “represent an another humiliation for Ireland at hands of the EU” (September 10). Amid exasperated references to “seismic shifts”, “snake oil” and “spin merchants”, Ms Browne suggests the proposed debt restructuring is a “failure” and that Irish politicians should not “collude in this charade”.

The article is a cynical attack on what is a pragmatic and sensible piece of policy-making by the Government. Two arguments in the article merit a specific rebuttal.

First, Ms Browne states that Ireland “shouldered 43 per cent of the net cost of the banking crisis across all 27 EU member states – €41bn out of €96.2bn”. The only citation we are given for this overall figure is a general reference to the Eurostat statistical agency. The figure of €96.2 billion is, in fact, significantly short of the overall EU bill.

The European Commission has found that between October 1, 2008 and October 1, 2013, the overall volume of aid used for capital support (recapitalization and asset relief measures) amounted to €591.9 billion. These figures are on the European Commission’s Competition website.

Second, Ms Browne asks “what legal or moral compulsion is on Ireland to honour in full debt incurred by Irish banks when there was no State involvement?”

The answer is that the Irish state was directly involved in the conduct of Irish banks in the years preceding the crisis.

The Irish state was responsible for the direct regulation of Irish banks and allowed the Irish banking sector to inflate beyond reasonable measures.

By allowing the Irish banks to continue in their practices, the Government effectively gave its imprimatur to their business model and thus bears a significant responsibility for the crash that followed.

Peter Malone, Mirabel Road, London

Irish Independent

Meg and Lynn

September 12, 2014

12 September 2014 Meg and Lynn

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A sunny but cool day. Meg and Lynn come to visit.

Mary’s back not much better today, no breakfast wt down corn for tea and her back pain is still there.


Graham Joyce – obituary

Graham Joyce was an acclaimed fantasy novelist whose fiction reinvented the fairy tale, mixing the eerie with the everyday

Graham Joyce, fantasy writer


5:21PM BST 11 Sep 2014


Graham Joyce, who has died aged 59, was a multi-award-winning author of what was usually described as “dark fantasy” – his long suit was atmosphere and the ability to marry the magical with the quotidian; and his books occupied narrative territory similar to contemporary reinventors of the fairy tale such as Neil Gaiman and Jonathan Carroll.

The titles of several of Joyce’s books — such as Dreamside, The Tooth Fairy, House of Lost Dreams, The Limits of Enchantment and Some Kind of Fairy Tale — made no secret of this tendency. His ready incorporation of the eerie or mystical with the matter-of-fact led to comparisons with the magical realism of writers such as Gabriel García Márquez, but he regarded it as being in a much more English tradition, often citing Arthur Machen as a formative influence.

Covers of two Graham Joyce novels

Graham William Joyce was born on October 22 1954 and grew up at Keresley, a mining village near Coventry in the industrial West Midlands. He described the women in his family as prone to dreams and visions which they regarded as part and parcel of everyday life: “They just accepted this mystery and then they cooked the dinner.”

His first piece of writing was an attempt to provide an account of his junior school’s success in the football shield in the dialect of his teacher, who had a broad Yorkshire accent. Football remained an enthusiasm; he was the regular goalkeeper for the England Writers team. At 16, he started his first novel – “a really bad spy story” – and got a job mixing cement in a builder’s yard.

Joyce continued to write, without any commercial success, and trained as a teacher at Bishop Lonsdale College in Derby, where he lived in a bedsit, for which he paid £2.50 a week. After gaining his BEd in 1977 he went on to Leicester University, where he studied English Literature and met his wife, Sue.

Upon graduating, he took a part-time job with the National Association of Youth Clubs, reasoning that it would give him time to write. But he enjoyed little success, while his work became full-time.

Joyce claimed that he felt miserable during this period – he was strongly opposed to Margaret Thatcher’s government – and after eight years he quit his job to have one last stab at making a career as a writer. His wife also left her job as a solicitor, and the two drove to Greece, choosing at random to settle on Lesbos.

After a year the manuscript of Dreamside, which dealt with college students experimenting with lucid dreaming, was accepted by Pan Macmillan, and Joyce and his wife used the advance to explore the Middle East before returning to Leicester. By the time it was published in 1991, he had written two others.

One did not find favour with his agent, but the other, Dark Sister, a tale of occult herbalism in Leicester, won the British Fantasy Award for 1993. His fourth novel, Requiem, and his fifth, The Tooth Fairy, took the same prize in 1996 and 1997, as did 1999’s Indigo. The Facts of Life (2002) won the World Fantasy Award.

What made this steady output and success the more remarkable was the range of subjects and settings Joyce was prepared to explore. Apart from the elements of the fantastic, the books had little in common. Requiem was set in Jerusalem and used religious divisions to mirror personal distances; The Tooth Fairy was a coming of age tale of loss and maturity; and Indigo drew on art and cultural clashes to examine ways of seeing.

In all Joyce produced more than a dozen novels, as well as collections of short stories, and the non-fiction football memoir Simple Goalkeeping Made Spectacular (2009), which was shortlisted for William Hill Sports Book of the Year. From 1996, he also taught Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University, which awarded him a PhD (for published fiction; his Master’s thesis had focused on Thomas Pynchon).

Smoking Poppy (2001) was set amid Thai hill tribes, while Memoirs of a Master Forger (2008), purportedly by an alcoholic bibliophile who can see demons, was actually published under the name of the central character, William Heaney. Some Kind of Fairy Tale (2012) described the return of a missing girl, unchanged after 20 years.

Graham Joyce was diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma last year. He documented his experience of chemotherapy, and the way in which the disease made him look differently at the world, on his blog, which brought him many messages of support from readers. His last novel was The Year of the Ladybird, a ghost story set in the long hot summer of 1976, and his most recent publication a collection of short stories, 25 Years in the Mines, with a cover designed by his 18-year-old daughter, Ella.

He is survived by his wife, their daughter and son, Joe.

Graham Joyce, born October 22 1954, died September 9 2014


Abraham Lincoln circa 1863. Photograph: Library Of Congress/Sanna Dullaway Abraham Lincoln circa 1863. Photograph: Library Of Congress/Sanna Dullaway

I am surprised that in all the hubbub about Scottish secession from the United Kingdom, so little reference has been made to the 19th-century American experience. For instance, Abraham Lincoln’s first presidential inaugural address (4 March 1861), a passionate plea to avoid civil war, demonstrates the immense relevance of that experience to our difficulties. He said to the Southern states, and seems to be saying to Scotland:

“Physically speaking, we cannot separate. We cannot remove our respective sections from each other, nor build an impassable wall between them. A husband and wife may be divorced and go out of the presence and beyond the reach of each other; but the different parts of our country cannot do this. They cannot but remain face to face, and intercourse, either amicable or hostile, must continue between them. Is it possible, then, to make that intercourse more advantageous or more satisfactory after separation than before? Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws? Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends?”

The implications of this, for us are plain. What is at stake is not just the Act of Union but the future of all the people of the island of Britain, who cannot but remain face to face (as Lincoln puts it). If the Scottish Nationalists are serious about reform, they should demand that the whole British people come together to exercise their constitutional right of amending their government. All other courses, including secession and “devo max”, threaten all of us with years of disorder, and no satisfactory outcome, perhaps, at the end.

I hope that the Scots, whose nationalist leaders seem so indifferent to anything except their own immediate interests, will vote no on referendum day; and then that all of us Britons can elect a constitutional assembly to address the problems so dismally threatening our future together – a future which, I repeat, is, as Lincoln helps us to see, inescapable.
Hugh Brogan
Research professor of history, University of Essex

• My great-grandfather Keir Hardie, one of the founder members of the Independent Labour party, believed passionately in the concept of home rule but also in a socialist party built on solidarity and unity. Salmond and co are cynical with their half-truths about creating a state where social mobility and welfare for the poor will flourish. North Sea oil, which is beginning to sound as large as the North Sea itself, will need investment to maintain and will eventually dry out. Businesses may well come on low corporation tax but will they stay if their profits are capped? And if they do, will they reinvest their profits in the economy or do as they are doing elsewhere in the world keep them in-house or move them elsewhere to some safe tax haven?

Nationalism fosters insularity and hostility. However, we have a grumpy neighbour. I have spent 50 years in education and counselling and know that one difficult kid can bring the class down. Eventually you have to open the door and tell them to go. The rest of the class thrive in their absence, as the UK will do. We are an intelligent, determined nation and have survived far worse than this.
Kate Axford
Selby, Yorkshire

• I recall that the Guardian initiated a letter-writing campaign to US voters prior to the 2004 presidential election (Report, 22 October 2004). I wish to respond to voters in the British Isles and suggest that Scottish citizens vote in favour of independence. This is a historic moment. This is your chance to utterly and totally transform the British Isles. You are the change that you’ve been waiting for. Since 2008 the citizens of the United States have had so much hope and change that it wouldn’t be right to keep it all on this side of the Atlantic. Next weekend I urge all eligible voters in Scotland to break the chains that bind you to the English and Welsh. Assert yourselves and go forward.

Depending on the outcome, Welsh citizens might consider a referendum of their own.
Martha Furman Kojro
Rolla, Missouri, USA

• The campaign has been brilliant to observe and seemingly galvanising for all those who can vote. We should thank those who made the referendum possible. And as the vote draws near, one central issue has been thrown into stark relief – simply, as the no campaign demonstrates, across all its arguments, that the rUK currently subsidises Scotland and in exchange Scotland sends 40 or so Labour MPs to Westminster – is this the sustainable deal all the citizens of the UK freely buy into? Are the unemployed, the strained social services, the poor housing, the old and infirm, the health services, the universities in the rUK better serviced by the subsidies and disproportionate allocation of public funds to Scotland than a new partnership with an independent Scotland?

As Madeleine Bunting points out (Comment, 10 September) there is a huge opportunity for reinvention of politics, of identity, of new alliances; let us hope that Scotland will seize the opportunity and help propel the whole of the UK into a new age of enlightened politics.
Howard Williams

Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire: dispute over manorial rights. Photograph: Graham Turner for the G Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire: dispute over manorial rights. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Nowhere in the discussion of garden cities (Rogers attacks ‘ridiculous’ plan for garden cities in green belt, 9 September) is there any mention of manorial rights. It has only recently been made known by the Land Registry that these feudal rights still exist, affecting 100,000 freehold properties nationwide, allowing hunting, shooting, fishing and mining for minerals over those properties. Councils that own freeholds and lease out properties to tenants are also affected by this. Nobody mentioned the existence of manorial rights when Welwyn Garden City was set up or disposed of by Margaret Thatcher, and nothing was ever mentioned during searches or conveyancing for property sales. A national campaign to abolish manorial rights, the Peasants’ Revolt, has been initiated in Welwyn Garden City. Manorial rights have already been abolished in Scotland. We wrote to Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband about this issue, but have received no replies.
Richard and Janet Woodward
Welwyn Garden City

•  One of the central strategies of Ebenezer Howard’s “town-country garden city” was to spatially separate dwelling from workplace. This separation has become a widely accepted central plank of urban planning and associated governance systems, an unexpected consequence of which has been to drive home-based work underground.

With structural unemployment, a globalising economy and enabling new technologies, the home-based workforce is now growing rapidly. This popular, family-friendly working practice has the potential to benefit the city, the economy and the environment.

Many home-based workers operate covertly, fearing they are, or actually are, breaking some regulation or other. It is crucial, as we think about the housing crisis, that we do not repeat past mistakes. Today’s dwellings are often also workplaces. They, and their neighbourhoods, need to be designed and governed differently. The garden city is not the answer.
Dr Frances Holliss
London Metropolitan University

A plate of poutine Poutine … a ‘democratic’ dish. Photograph: Alamy

As your otherwise excellent article states, poutine is a dish prepared with curd cheese, fried potato and the cooking juices from a roast (The posh chips and gravy taking over the world, G2, 8 September). If you deem such a food to be “posh” I shudder to think what might qualify as “proletarian”. Moreover, as a Canadian, I take exception to this imposition of your society’s obsession with class on to one of the most democratic foods the world has ever known. Poutine, in its original and natural state, is an honest food. It does not pretend to refinement or sophistication, and yet (as any consumer of a truly great poutine will tell you) its simple constituent parts combine to form a complex and uniquely satisfying food. It wants to be enjoyed by all – be they lords or labourers.
Zachary A Palmer Laporte

• No doubt the Vatican cricket team’s maiden tour of England (Report, 10 September) will find its way into Wisden, which is, after all, the Bible of cricket. And presumably any return fixtures can be played on the square at St Peter’s, which is more than a match for the square at Lord’s.
Adrian Brodkin

• Patrick Wintour writes (Cameron could secure his place in history – as PM who lost Scotland, 10 September) that (in 1982) “Lord Carrington was the last cabinet minister to resign … as a matter of honour”. But did not Robin Cook do so in 2003, when he resigned as leader of the House of Commons because of the Iraq war?
Claude Scott
Richmond, Surrey

• How marvellous to see Annie Freud, at 66, included in the list of next generation poets (Double recognition for genre-busting poet, 11 September). As a 48-year-old working on my first collection, this news has markedly improved my morning.
Emma Must

• With respect, talking of “the world’s first artwork” dating back to 77,000 years before present (Letters, 8 September) underestimates H sapiens. Evidence indicates that human art had its origins 110,000 years ago at various near east sites and probably earlier.
Dr John Jennings
Leamington Spa, Warwickshire

German bombers over London in 1940 German bombers over London during the Battle of Britain in 1940: one in five of the RAF pilots who took them on were Polish. Photograph: IWM via Getty Images

While I agree with Dr Jane Darke about honouring those who fell in the second world war (Letters, 6 September), it is high time for national recognition of the part Poland played in the allied victory. It was the fourth largest allied armed force and played vital roles in most of the main theatres of war – North Africa, Monte Casino, Arnhem and many more, plus had a crucial role in cracking the Enigma code.

In 1940, before the US and USSR entered the war on the allied side, Poland played a vital role in the Battle of Britain. There were times when one out of five or six pilots was Polish. The entirely Polish 303 squadron scored the highest number of “kills” in the battle. After the war, Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding, head of Fighter Command, wrote that without the Polish contribution “I hesitate to say that the outcome of the battle would have been the same”. It really was down to the wire.

Poland lost more people pro rata than any other nation including USSR. How did we acknowledge this? The Polish land forces were excluded from the victory parade on 8 June 1946 for fear of upsetting Stalin. It is time to acknowledge with gratitude what we owe to the Poles.
Joseph Cocker

• Soon the brave men and women who endured the trials of a world war will all be gone. That is why every year I take a group of children to Arnhem in Holland to hear, first hand, the stories of a bitter battle told by those who fought it.

Last year, at a ceremony in the main cemetery, we witnessed a young soldier fainting while on duty. The first to his side was no medic or first aider. It was an elderly figure, wearing beret and medals, who had leapt from his chair and run all of 40 metres to help – it was 92-year-old Arnhem veteran Johnny Peters. We stood witnessing an extraordinary act of selflessness and camaraderie, instinctive and undimmed after all these years.

This month is the 70th anniversary of the battle at Arnhem. The last survivors will make one final pilgrimage. Peters will not be present. He passed away last month. But the qualities of that extraordinary generation, embodied in men like Peters, will live on. Their legacy will endure. It is a lesson not found in any school curriculum.
Titus Mills Headmaster, Walhampton school, Lymington

Protestors against the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership in Brighton. Photograph: Protestors against the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership in Brighton. Photograph: Kate Nye/Demotix/Corbis

Today, negotiators meet in Brussels to finalise an EU-Canada “free trade” deal, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (Ceta). Like the EU-US deal being discussed, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), Ceta contains a controversial clause to allow large companies to sue governments over decisions they believe could harm their profits. This “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) system circumvents existing court systems and could be a barrier to democratic policymaking.

In Britain, Ceta could threaten the NHS, public education and other public services, as well as our ability to regulate a host of industries from fracking to finance. Despite widespread public concern over ISDS, trade negotiators have seen fit to keep it in Ceta. If the British government doesn’t challenge it this week, neither European or British parliaments have the ability to amend a deal whose text still remains formally secret. Today is business secretary Vince Cable’s last chance to use the UK’s veto to remove ISDS from Ceta, to protect our democracy from the corporate power-grab proposed by this deal. We urge him to do so.
Nick Dearden Director, World Development Movement, John Hilary Executive director, War on Want, Sally Hunt General secretary, University and College Union, Christine Blower General secretary, National Union of Teachers, Helen Drewery General secretary, Quaker Peace and Social Witness, Ruth Bergan Coordinator, Trade Justice Movement

• The GMB revealed at a TUC fringe meeting on Sunday that as well as TTIP (Report, 8 September) it is fighting TiSA (the global Trade in Services Agreement) and the “Trojan horse” EU-Canada Ceta. These are the final pieces in the neoliberal jigsaw, handing over control of our rights and services to the multinationals.
John Airs

• Despite forever banging on about the repatriation of “powers” from Europe, the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative party and Ukip appears content to surrender vast swaths of UK sovereignty to multinational agribusiness, pharmaceutical and energy companies. Hypocrisy – or self-interest?
Wal Callaby

• Amid the furore about hacking of celebrity images, your writers (on 6 September) identify very real wider dangers in the communications revolution already spinning beyond control. Zoe Williams uses “citizen porn” examples to show how phones are now data terminals; Ian Sample explains how inequalities in wealth impact on health and our genetic futures; Charles Arthur shows how increasingly rapid and easy connection has dark downsides.

Last week I joined European doctors discussing the information sharing being pressed on them in the name of patient access but also cost efficiencies. There is no doubt that the rapidly expanding global use of so-called e-health, m-health, the cloud and all the new gadgets we may soon all have to carry to monitor our vital signs, have massive potential benefits.

But private research priorities based on profit have not necessarily addressed equitable human needs.For business knowledge is power. I refuse to allow increasingly privatised health services to access my personal data when I cannot know the purposes for which it may be used or abused. If I had secrets, for example concerning abortion or sexual health, I could be even more vulnerable to exploitation, threat, blackmail or persecution as those who had hoped their playtime images were inviolable. But I would not have access to Hollywood lawyers, and little protection for my rights.

Multinational corporations are driving this revolution, irrespective of predictable and unforeseen consequences. There is urgent need for global oversight backed by local and EU powers and rights to ensure new communications tools are harnessed for good.
Clive Needle
Director, EuroHealthNet

Detail of Peace - Burial at Sea, 1842 Detail of Peace – Burial at Sea, 1842, on show at Tate Britain until 25 January 2015. Photograph: Tate

Wow, what a stunning Turner painting (Peace – Burial at Sea, 1842, illustrating Jonathan Jones’s review of Late Turner at Tate Britain, 9 September). Not a picture-postcard sailing ship but a proper industrial dirty-black-smoke sail/steam ship. It was painted at a time of great turbulence and poverty, which Turner’s patron George Wyndham and his associates did much to alleviate. What a shame their morality has not been handed down to present-day industrialists.

My namesake, Elizabeth Iliffe, Wyndham’s mistress and later wife, worked with Turner at Petworth House – a painter, she built a lab, made pigments, won a medal for designing a type of lever, and did horticultural experiments. Quite a good example of a scientist who remained anonymous because of her gender.
Cathryn Iliffe

Scottish party leaders announce their backing for more powers for Scotland Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson (front left), Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, announce their backing for more powers for Scotland. ‘English people should not support any further (expensive) devolution should Scots choose to stay.’ Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

On Tuesday, Westminster politicians woke up to the fact that Scotland is very close to voting for independence. They are scrambling to throw together a plan promising new powers to the Scots to convince them to stay in the union (Brown to the rescue? No camp sends for ex-PM to save union, 9 September. Never mind that many of us have already cast our ballots in the post. And never mind that any plan so hurriedly thrown together will not fill many voters with confidence.

But supporters of the yes campaign would do well to acknowledge that the change they promise will not simply be delivered by a successful referendum. Any real change to how Scotland is governed will only be hard won, after difficult compromise and painful sacrifice. In this intense atmosphere, we might remember Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential election campaign, when he offered “Change you can believe in” to a country that desperately wanted it. Hindsight, however, has not been kind to this promise. Today, the approval ratings of the president are at dismal 41% – the lowest of any US president since the 1950s. The American political system is more ideologically divided than ever.

Yet we continue to imagine that someone else can make changes for us, while we carry on comfortably as always. Whatever the result of the referendum, once all of the emotional turmoil has settled, may all of us who long for real change across Scotland and the rest of the UK finally commit to getting down to work and trying to make that change happen.
Christopher Brittain

• The issue of a timetable for further powers to the Scottish parliament is secondary. The primary concern is: “what powers?” There needs to be clarity on that before the referendum date. Otherwise the Scots are being offered the same pig in the same poke as in 1979. By 19 September, the three Westminster parties, whose recent record for probity is not to be relied on, will have no need to offer any more than the lowest common denominator at best. As a Scottish voter, why should I place any faith in their offering?
James Reid
Castle Douglas

• The polls suggest that the result of next Thursday’s referendum will leave approximately half of the population of Scotland profoundly unhappy. The polls also show that many people are still not clear about the relative merits of devo max and independence. In this context it doesn’t make any sense to have a single yes/no decision-making process. What is required is an opportunity to try one of the solutions, and then choose the other if the first proves to be unsatisfactory. Coupling a timetable for extensive devolution with an undertaking to hold a further referendum in (say) 10 years would offer this option.
Stephen Gardner

• The coalition government failed to agree to bring in proportional representation for UK voters. Had it done so, Scots anywhere in the union could have voted SNP, indeed any UK voters could have voted SNP. This would have the effect of strengthening the influence at Westminster of Scotland and Scottish ideas about social and fiscal policy. That opportunity was lost but still could still offer a compromise, post-vote, that would enfranchise the Scottish diaspora and leaven the monotony of the first-past-the-post system. The current democratic deficit lies at the root of the Scottish yearning for a more equitable voting system, and explains the lamentable turnout at elections of the nation at large.
Craig Sams
Hastings, East Sussex

• How long has Westminster known about the Scottish referendum? How long has the Labour leadership been aware of the disastrous effect on the party that a yes vote will bring? How long has it taken for Ed Miliband to show himself in Scotland? We are now seeing the no strategy panic set in. I received an email yesterday from Labour asking for donations, or for volunteers to phone Scottish party members to ask them not to vote. Talk about too little, too late. Add to this Gordon Brown being asked to play Santa Claus to tempt the voters (with the very things they were asking for prior to any talk of a referendum), plus Ed Miliband’s apparent endorsement of guards strung along the Scottish border (nice one, Ed), and you have the perfect yes-voting storm.

As an expat Scot, I don’t relish the break up of the union, but if the country of my birth wants to beat a retreat from Westminster and from the Labour party’s apparent loss of memory regarding Scotland’s unswerving support of the Labour movement since its inception, then I can live with it.
Janet Fearnley
Farnham, Surrey

• Gordon Brown acknowledges (Report, 8 September) that it is proving “difficult” to win over Scots to stay in the UK because of anger at coalition policies on austerity and privatisation. Yet in the Better Together campaign Labour is in coalition with the coalition, giving credence to the very parties that are implementing austerity.

Even worse, should Labour win the general election in 2015 it too has committed to austerity policies to eliminate the budget deficit in the lifetime of one parliament, so twice as many cuts will take place in five years compared to the past five years. If the Scots don’t want to vote for austerity, why should any Briton vote for Labour and austerity in 2015?
Darrall Cozens

• There is one thing Gordon Brown could do to show his support for devo max. He could pledge to stand for the Scottish parliament and offer himself as leader of Scottish Labour and possible first minister. That might just be too much of a two-edged sword.
Gerard McMullan

• A wonderfully insightful and splendidly unforgiving piece from Owen Jones (Whatever Scots decide the old order is dead and buried, 8 September). The simple truth is that there are only 5.3 million people living in Scotland and over 56 million living in England. Scotland has 59 MPs and England 533. Even allowing for Wales’s 40 and Northern Ireland’s 18, English interests outweigh the rest – as they have done for centuries. Domination may not be as savagely exercised as it once was, but it’s ever present.

So however much Cameron, Clegg, Darling et al prattle about a better together union of equals, population and parliamentary numbers indicate that if they triumph, Scotland will revert to being an afterthought. A yes vote make sense, as the imperative of shared interests will ensure independence brings a more effective alliance between the two nations than what is presently imposed by whoever is in power in Westminster. So other than those who can’t bear to let go of what they have long held, relentlessly exploited and taken for granted, we will all be winners.
Jim Gillan
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

• I hope the Scots vote yes, because I fear the consequences for northern England should Scotland choose to stay in the union. Scotland already receives more public subsidy per head than its prosperity deserves. Promises (bribes) now being made by all major party leaders will have to be paid for. Is it likely that grandiose spending and capital schemes in the south-east, the nation’s so-called powerhouse, will be curtailed? No, the north, which contains many of the poorest areas in Britain, will pay the price.

I wish an independent Scotland every success in creating a fairer society, should it choose to go, but English people should not support any further (expensive) devolution should Scots choose to stay.
Mike Mosley

• If bribery in the form of the belated offer of greater “devo max” doesn’t work let’s try blackmail. Shares set to slump on independence (Report, 8 September), homeowners at risk of a price crash, crisis worse than eurozone if Scotland votes yes. Some extracts from recent press. I hope my fellow Scots won’t let these shoddy tactics dissuade them from voting yes.
Dugald MacInnes

• Please do not separate Scotland from England. For us, Scotland and England are one. Both Scotland and England will suffer economically. When nations in Europe are banding together to make a bigger market, separation will reduce both economically and politically. Logistically there will be problems. It is a bit late don’t you think after 300 years? If you want to protect certain things you can negotiate for autonomy in certain areas. Don’t say yes to independence.
Dr S Sudarshan
Bangalore, India

Yes and no campaigners display their placards as Labour veteran takes to the streets of Glasgow in s Yes and no campaigners display their placards as Labour veteran takes to the streets of Glasgow in support of the no campaign. Photograph: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Getty Images)

Many, like Sir John Major, are describing the union as “long-standing and successful”, with this is as one reason to maintain it. I am sure it is right to take a long view. That way, looking at Europe’s geopolitical map over centuries, a historian can see how much units of government have changed, as regions have come together and sometimes divided. The picture’s complex. I can’t think of a modern European state in which its “union” hasn’t involved issues regarding the “centre” and the “parts”. Is it surprising that in our time these issues are resurfacing? Should we not see the Scotland/UK agenda as a particular case of this?

There seems no reason for the United Kingdom to stay the same just because we may say it’s been successful, something founded, I think, largely on the shared opportunities and gains from empire through much of the time. But a larger view may also say that the way forward isn’t to break the multiple bonds established over time (I write as an English person who, like so many, is part Scot). It is to recognise on the one hand that there is a real and urgent need to change relationships within the UK, not just regarding Scotland; on the other hand that separation is not now a good way to go about it.

After a yes vote for independence, the issues of relationship will still be there – especially in the economic sphere. What our times need is recognition of interdependence, surely, and more mature exploration of how that is brought together with regard for the identity of peoples, places and interests within the larger frame. Don’t we need this larger view from our politicians? It’s about an endeavour based not on argument from the past but a positive view for people and states in changing times.
Rev Dr Brian Curnew

• As a new Scottish Enlightenment brings the mythology surrounding Britain and its empire crashing down around the feet of the Tories, let us remember that the local name for the despised British in colonial north America was Tory. If we add the words penned by Thomas Jefferson in the opening paragraph of the US Declaration of Independence in 1776, there is every reason to believe the same act of self-determination will liberate the real potential of Scotland: “When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station.”
Miles Secker
Heckington, Lincolnshire

• People living in Scotland (of whom almost 10% were born in England) have followed the debates and discussions for months now and know that no concept of rejecting Britishness has ever entered into their thoughts. However, for people to be able to elect their own government and prosper as their Scandinavian neighbours do with a fairer distribution of wealth does involve rejection of an outdated British political model. People in Newcastle and Manchester know this but sadly they don’t have Scotland’s opportunities – as yet.
Stuart Campbell
Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway

• I am a naturalised Briton who has travelled widely and frequently in Scotland. I have always regarded Scotland as a separate nation and am surprised that its independence was not confirmed decades ago. So far as I can see, the principal argument employed by the no camp in England is that a yes vote would bring adverse results for England and the English. This is an argument which Scots can be excused for finding less than compelling. I have often been told by friends that I may be British but (they are relieved to say) I can never be English. I rather look forward to proving them wrong.
David Rubinstein

• I have lived in England for years, but was brought up and educated in Scotland, support the Scottish national football team and still have a Scottish accent. I consider myself to be Scottish.

However, unlike unlike many expat Scots who presumably could, if they wished, claim Scottish nationality based on birth, I was born in England. I still have family in Scotland: my English-born parents have lived there since they first moved north in 1963 with a very young family, and could presumably claim nationality through residency. I have a sibling who will be able to claim Scottish nationality by birth. I know my circumstances don’t apply to many people but those of us who are affected will effectively be stripped of what we believed to be our nationality if Scotland votes yes. I like being Scottish and British. After next Thursday I may well loose the former.
Mark Jackson
Harrow, Middlesex

• A BBC report stated there are some 750.000 Scottish-born people living south of the border. This is more than the population of Edinburgh or Glasgow. We hear about numerous surveys being conducted. Has anybody bothered to ask these Scots their opinions concerning the upcoming vote on independence? What about their heritage?
Justin Brown
Sherborne, Dorset

• It’s absurd to suggest that people living outside Scotland should have a vote in the referendum. If you had once lived in, say, Macclesfield, and later moved to, say, Mitcham, would you feel entitled to vote in Macclesfield elections?
Douglas Graham
Hamilton, South Lanarkshire

• I was born in England but, during the war, I served in a Scottish regiiment for over four years. If Scotland gains independence, will I be able to claim dual nationality. What would be the advantages? And the cost?
Ron Cox

• With the momentum now swinging in favour of the yes campaign, there must be a duty on the prime minster and his colleagues to seek agreement on the make-up of the new union flag as the saltire is removed on independence. This is not a flippant comment. Many Commonwealth countries and dependences have the present union flag as part of their own. Surely there is a duty also to discuss with them the future design of the new union flag?
Colin Cameron
Irvine, Ayrshire

• Just to reassure Charlie Brooker (G2, 9 September) and anybody else who is worried about it: the union flag will remain the same even if Scotland chooses independence. It dates from the reign of James VI of Scotland/James I of England, over a century before the 1707 parliamentary union, and ingeniously represents separate countries sharing the same monarch. The flag will only have to be changed if Scotland makes the mistake of becoming a republic, in which case they will also have to elect dreary bourgeois presidents instead of enjoying our glamorous royal family.
Ralph Lloyd-Jones


Rosie Millard is rightly concerned about the electoral implications of the proposed “mansion tax” in London and the South-east (8 September). It would create an arbitrary threshold at which yet another tax, just like that on inheritances, is suddenly imposed at a high rate.

Instead, we need a complete revamp of the existing system of council tax, under which the owner of a £100m mansion in London currently pays only twice as much as the tenant of a flat in Middlesbrough.

Rather than clumsy “bands”, why not follow Sweden, which has a flat-rate annual tax of around 0.7% of each property’s value? Soaring property prices work against tenants and favour owners. This suggests that council tax should be paid by landlords.

It is contradictory for homes to be subjected to council tax by local authorities, while central government exempts principal private residences from unlimited amounts of capital gains tax. Why does the government use such reliefs to encourage people to put their money into ever-more lavish homes when they would surely be much better encouraged to invest in initiatives which create jobs and enhance the environment?

Aidan Harrison 

Rothbury, Northumberland


I find it difficult to believe that the taxpayers of London are quite as selfish as Rosie Millard asserts. Surely those who, through no effort or skill of their own, have accumulated property worth 10 times the average UK house price would have no objection to making more contribution to the exchequer than the current absurdly generous council tax allows? In a time when homelessness is widespread, surely exceptionally fortunate Londoners are more public-spirited than that?

Michael Godwin


The real case against the so-called mansion tax is that any change in the taxation of private houses should be to update the council tax.

At present council tax is levied on houses being placed in one of a number of bands but the highest is £350,000 and over. The bands were calculated in 1991. This is equivalent to about £850,000 today. So the owner of a house valued at £900,000 pays the same tax as a Russian billionaire owning a mega-mansion costing £60m or more.

Not even the most bare-faced plutocrat can claim this is fair. What is obviously needed is to introduce more bands above the present top one. The popular myth that this will automatically lead to higher council tax for everybody needs to be exploded.

Because governments of all parties tend to put a cap on local authorities’ spending, they would not be able to increase it. The income would however be differently raised. A larger share would come from more put into the new band (which would need only a revaluation of those now in band H – less than 3.5 per cent of the country’s 28m houses).

In fact everybody now in bands A to G would enjoy a reduction in their council-tax bill – surely an attraction to the politicians?

Harvey Cole

Winchester, Hampshire


Scots vote may be a boon for democracy

This referendum has been the greatest driver for many years in getting citizens actively involved in the political process and enabling them to express what kind of values they want politics to represent. It has also revealed the strength of feeling of many in England, too, that their interests are disregarded  in Westminster.

When the dust settles, there may well be a greater debate about how we can make Westminster more accountable to, and representative of, the wider population. For the first time in many years the political establishment may be sufficiently shaken out of its self-serving torpor to actually look beyond the Westminster bubble and listen to the voices they’ve been able to ignore for so long. We may all gain yet, regardless of what happens on 18 September.

Steve Porter


By the time the consequences of destroying one of the oldest and most successful political unions become clear I suspect Alex Salmond will be long gone to the lucrative lecture circuit.

Having bet the future of the UK on the voting whims of some thrawn Celts, David Cameron will also be gone, as will Ed Miliband for losing control of Scottish Labour supporters. Their successors, put in place by a now furious English electorate, will be in no mood to do us any favours and we are likely to end up in the enervating embrace of the IMF.

Too late we will realise we have voted for an impoverished statelet facing public-service cuts, endemic unemployment, raised taxes and the flight of both youth and capital.

Dr John Cameron

St Andrews

Yes, the Scots will go, and beyond doubt, the major responsibility lies with the governing elite. The Scots are inclined to be socialist in attitude, closer to the egalitarian and republican outlook characteristic of Europe than to the hideously class-riven society that exists south of the border.

Like the rest of us, they have suffered from the unrestrained capitalism of the past 30 years which has left ordinary people paying ever-increasing bills to private companies for the ordinary services of life.

By voting Yes they will free themselves of the cabal of public-school spivs that governs these islands. God help the rest of us.

Keith Purbrick

Canterbury, Kent

It now looks as though neither side can win a convincing victory in the Scottish independence referendum. What this illustrates is the gross inadequacy of our form of democracy. It is quite understandable that the Scottish electorate feels unrepresented by the “Coalition” – in fact essentially Tory – Government, because so do millions of the rest of us. It is surely time to end the system by which a party with a third of the popular vote feels empowered to inflict its nutty agenda on the rest of us, for example in education, the NHS and the bedroom tax.

The Scots are in a unique position to deliver bloody noses to these vain, strutting peacocks. There can be little doubt that the loss of Scotland to the UK would be remembered as the only lasting legacy of the “Coalition”.

Gavin P Vinson

London N10

We need each other within the UK and are stronger for it – on defence, trade and multinational organisations. Divided we would lose our voice on the UN Security Council – perhaps to India, Brazil or South Africa – and Nato could no longer rely upon a common UK foreign-policy position.

Meanwhile, across Europe independence movements and Russian geopolitical strategists take heart at the success of the Yes campaign. As Russia sows the seeds of division and chaos by encouraging separatist groups, it knows Britain will be weaker if divided from within.

The idea of a divorce between countries with a shared history of culture, language and religion sends shivers down the spines of those who champion harmony across Europe. Alarm bells are ringing at the prospect of Scottish independence heralding the atomisation of Europe.

The future is uncertain and potentially dangerous so the question of whether we face it together or apart extends beyond the shores of Britain to a Europe whose security has been built upon unity.

Geraint Davies MP (Swansea West) & Member of the Council for Europe

London SW1

The sight of all three Westminster party leaders arriving in Scotland in a blind panic is reminiscent of a group of leaders from a totalitarian state attempting to stop one of its outlying regions from breaking away.

Surely if the Scottish economy were such a liability they would be happy to see it go? Why, then, do they constantly talk it down and suggest that an independent Scotland would be bound to fail?

Dr Dominic Horne

University of Worcester


If the Yes vote wins, will it be written, correctly, that Scotland was lost on the playing fields of Eton.

Malcolm Calvert

Anglesey, North Wales


University educated, but unemployable

The OECD’s report on numeracy and literacy levels in the UK reveals a worrying gap between skills and qualifications (report, 10 September). To counteract this, school-leavers need to think carefully about whether the degrees they are about to start will enable them to get the skills businesses actually need.

Employers tell us that apprentices are often better placed to meet the needs of business than those with other qualifications. Young people who enter into apprenticeship programmes benefit by gaining technical qualifications while learning the skills necessary to succeed at work. However, they are often unaware that these options exist.

Recent YouGov research reveals that nearly two-thirds of 18-24-year-olds have not had advice at secondary school or college on paid apprenticeships.

Jackie Bedford, Chief Executive, Step Ahead

London EC1

I was interested to see your article (10 September) headed “University education boom fails to improve numeracy and literacy”. This would seem to be borne out by your health briefing, two pages earlier: “2bn: number of Britons who will suffer from Alzheimer’s by 2050”.

Roger Smith



The Scottish referendum debate hinges on economics — or at least, it should

Sir, The discussion in Scotland in many ways mirrors the the UK debate about membership of the EU. In both cases there is a desire for political independence and the removal of central interference, but also support for economic unity in trade and industry to promote growth and prosperity. Total independence creates one but damages the other.

The voice of the business community in Scotland has been largely silent. Business organisations have been forced to take a strictly neutral stance, but for any business that trades across the border (ours has 98 per cent of its customers in the rest of the UK) the choice is clear. Economic separation would create barriers, physical, emotional and financial, that would seriously damage business relationships with our customers. The uncertainty of independence would last for many years. This uncertainty would lead to capital withdrawal, reduced investment, higher costs and in some cases relocation of businesses to England.

Alex Salmond is an astute politician and he knows this. He is desperate to keep the pound and intriguingly wants to remain in the EU, where his desire for economic unity overcomes his aversion to political interference, probably because Brussels is more remote than Westminster.

The debate should not be a Scotland-England rugby match, with rival supporters jeering and singing songs. We deserve better, and that is political freedom with economic unity. This is devolution and Scots will get more of it by voting “no”.

Philip G Blake

Munro Sawmills, Dingwall, Highland

Sir, Like Alan Templeton (letter, Sept 11) I am also one who was born in Scotland and left over 30 years ago to work in England. Mr Templeton regrets Scotland’s move to the left but believes that its resultant alienation from Westminster provides adequate reason for Scotland to vote “yes”. If he truly despairs of what has happened since he left Scotland, he should not advocate separation as that would only further the alienation that he decries. If Scotland is to move towards a more centrist attitude then it will only do so under the friendly companionship and influence of the English, Irish and Welsh within a United Kingdom.

RA Connell

Guildford, Surrey

Sir, Perhaps English politicians should remind Scottish voters of the Darién Disaster of the 1690s, when the Kingdom of Scotland, in an attempt to break free of what it perceived as English hegemony, bankrupted itself in an attempt to become a world trading nation by establishing a colony called “Caledonia” on the Isthmus of Panama on the Gulf of Darién.

Scotland’s nobles were almost bankrupted by the Darién fiasco. Fortunately for Scotland, the newly formed Bank of England was able to bail Scotland out, effectively acting as lender of last resort.

Peter Forrest

London N6

Sir, Bravo for an excellent leader (“Cliff Edge”, Sept 10). For Scotland faces waking up on September 19 without any feasible currency if the “yes” vote wins. The confidence vacuum created by this kind of ruinous uncertainty will almost certainly mean a run on bank deposits, a flight of capital from investors in Scottish business, and further pledges by businesses to relocate out of Scotland. Because of a lack of viable currency options, an independent Scotland would quickly become a great deal poorer.

The argument for an independent Scotland is lost already on the currency issue alone.

Elizabeth Oakley Dursley, Glos

Sir, Predictions about the nature of an independent Scotland overlook the dynamics of negotiations that would follow a “yes” vote.
England would be desperate to agree a secure new treaty to help to restore its international reputation, and would undermine its own moral authority and influence if it failed to help the new nation to establish itself successfully.

Bob Edmands

Chelmsford, Essex

Sir, Comments have been made about Trident and the RAF in Scotland, but what will happen to the Royal Regiment of Scotland, and its affiliated battalions such as the Black Watch and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, to name just two? I was privileged to serve with the Black Watch in Korea as part of the Commonwealth Division, and I cannot imagine it not being part of the British Army.

Lt-Col David Lloyd

Middleton-on-Sea, W Sussex

Sir, Surely the best way to let the Scots know that we want them to stay is not to pontificate further but to conduct opinion polls throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and publish the results.

Simon Downer

Hungerford, Berks

Sir, Liechtenstein has been in a customs and monetary union with Switzerland since the 1920s, and the Swiss Franc has been used as Liechtenstein’s currency since then. Liechtenstein is even permitted, on a limited basis, to mint commemorative Swiss Franc denominated coins with a Liechtenstein inscription.

It all seems to work quite well.

Doug Dean

Hergiswil, Switzerland

Sir, Many years ago, I asked my 84-year-old great aunt, an ardent Scot, if she supported the Scottish National Party and Winnie Ewing. The canny Scot in her came to the fore and she replied: “Oh no! I will go down for my pension and there will be nothing in the kitty.”

Rosalind Sherwood

Aldershot, Hants

Sir, When David Cameron began his speech in Scotland he said that his eight-year-old son had come into the bathroom to ask whether he could have a day off from school because his father was not attending parliament and would not be present at Question Time.
I wonder, on his return to London, whether his son asked him what the words “effing Tories” meant. Perhaps the prime minister is trying to reassure Scottish voters that the spirit of Rab C Nesbitt lives on south of the border.

Sidney Hauswirth

London NW8

Why do planning departments persist in demanding that a house is built of brick to ‘fit in with the neighbours’?

Sir, You highlight (Business, Sept 11) the current shortage of bricklayers. As an architect I have often advised clients that their new house or extension could be designed to avoid the extra costs of labour and materials that are in short supply, and generally they have been keen to accept this idea. Unfortunately many planning departments are oblivious of the pressures on the building industry and insist that a house is built of brick to “fit in with the neighbours”.

This attitude is no longer fit for purpose and I am increasingly taking the view that local planning departments are the greatest obstacle to increasing the supply of housing.

John T Pounder

London SE5

Humans, rather than badgers, are responsible for the disappearance of hedgehogs in Britain

Sir, Clive Aslet (Sept 9) implies that the decline of hedgehogs has been caused by badgers. In fact hedgehogs are disappearing mainly because of man. Modern landscaping and concreting over gardens, slug pellets, pesticides, solid fences, bonfires, modern farming methods and road kill are to blame. Unless we start taking responsibility for this, our hedgehogs could be heading for extinction.

Valerie Russell

Tonbridge, Kent

Sir, Further to Dr Sir Christopher Lever’s letter (Sept 10), baby birds in the nest and immature fledglings are no match for magpies and sparrowhawks. These are their main supply of food, not the speedier, lighter parent birds.

Sally Blundell

Martley, Worcs

Why do planning departments persist in demanding that a house is built of brick to ‘fit in with the neighbours’?

Sir, You highlight (Business, Sept 11) the current shortage of bricklayers. As an architect I have often advised clients that their new house or extension could be designed to avoid the extra costs of labour and materials that are in short supply, and generally they have been keen to accept this idea. Unfortunately many planning departments are oblivious of the pressures on the building industry and insist that a house is built of brick to “fit in with the neighbours”.

This attitude is no longer fit for purpose and I am increasingly taking the view that local planning departments are the greatest obstacle to increasing the supply of housing.

John T Pounder

London SE5

What on earth does the Imperial War Museum mean by saying its exhibits ‘speak to each other’?

Sir, Janice Turner (Sept 11) is right about the labelling at the Imperial War Museum. My son, aged 12, is a history fanatic and badgered me for months to go there. To find that we had to skulk around to find out what everything was, in a very crowded museum, was very frustrating.

To now learn that the exhibits “speak to each other” makes me wonder what language they were speaking in. Has the written word gone the same way as the typewriter ?

Brian Kettell

Sharjah, United Arab Emirates

It is not just overweight people who can feel discriminated against — virtual strangers comment on my build

Sir, I do not doubt that overweight people feel discriminated against (Sept 11). I would never make a hurtful comment to somebody about their size but find it odd that people seem to think it is acceptable to comment to my face on my very slim build by calling me “skinny” or “anorexic”.

Slim Jims also have feelings.

Catrin Board

Shorne, Kent


The reports from the Times Archive reveal that ‘there was no William Howard Russell of the Great War’

Sir, Nothing could illustrate more clearly the paucity of news from the front during one of the largest battles in human history — the Battle of the Marne — than the extract on needle-work from the Times Archive (Sept 9). And yet only days before, in the Amiens Dispatch (Aug 29), Times readers had learnt of the “broken bits of many regiments” reeling back in the retreat.

There was no William Howard Russell of the First World War.

Antony Bird



SIR – If voters on the Scottish electoral register do choose independence, who decides who gets a Scottish passport?

Andrew Doubt

SIR – John Taylor (Letters, September 9) is absolutely correct. I am English and British, in whichever order you like, and the reason I live in Scotland is that it now appears that I have spent more than 30 years helping to extract “Scotland’s oil” from the North Sea. The fact that I am allowed to vote in the referendum is not of my choosing, but I am happy to put my “No” on the ballot form.

Alex Salmond says that a Yes vote in the referendum will make me Scottish; this I totally deny. As far as I am concerned, any attempt to do so will breach my human rights and will be fought tooth and nail.

Capt Gerry Harcombe
Banchory, Kincardineshire

SIR – As one who was based in Scotland during the unceasing efforts to counter the Soviet threat in the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans during the Cold War, any prospect of the northern defences of this island coming under the direction of pacifist Scottish Nationalist policy-makers fills me with dread. This is especially so now that the Russian bear is again unsheathing its claws.

Sqn Ldr Seamus Hamill-Keays RAF (retd)
Llansantffraed, Breconshire

SIR – The SNP has said that an independent Scotland would open 100 embassies. This is more than Ireland at the top of the boom years.

Can Mr Salmond tell us the cost of this diplomatic network, and that of establishing a Scottish foreign office? Can we have an assurance that the embassies will not be rewards for party support, as in America?

Leigh Hatts
London SE1

SIR – When Scottish Nationalists divorce, do they retain their joint bank accounts?

Dr Andy Ashworth
Bo’ness, West Lothian

SIR – It’s said that Italy is refusing to deal with migrants, merely waving them through towards Britain (Letters, September 9). If Scotland separates, can we pass them on to Mr Salmond, who promises even more generous welfare?

Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Northwood, Middlesex

SIR – What will Nigel Farage call his party if there is no United Kingdom?

Ian Smee
Sutton Mandeville, Wiltshire

SIR – What a racist debasement of the struggle for the liberation of black people in South Africa for Alex Salmond to cite it in support of a Yes vote. There is no apartheid in Scotland.

My wife and I were political prisoners in South Africa (1964-67). Where are Scotland’s political prisoners, or its banned people (such as we both were), or its pass laws, its residential segregation, its separate public facilities, its death penalty, its exclusion of the majority from the vote?

Would you buy a used car from this snake-oil salesman?

Paul Trewhela
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

SIR – If the vote is Yes, there will follow a 16‑month period during which negotiations will take place between the Scots and Westminster to agree the fine print.

If, as we are being warned, the general election in 2015 results in a Labour victory, there will be the Gilbertian situation of a Labour prime minister, possibly Ed Miliband, negotiating the demise of the Labour Party as an electable party for any foreseeable future government of the less-United Kingdom.

Michael Sydney
South Godstone, Surrey

SIR – David Cameron should resign for allowing this to happen. Flying the Saltire over Downing Street was an utter disgrace – a surrender of belief in the Union flag and all that it stands for at a crucial time for deciding the whole country’s future.

Johan Van Dijk
Oxhill, Warwickshire

SIR – The definition of a referendum is “a general vote by the electorate on a single political question which has been referred to them for a direct decision”.

Given the Scottish National Party’s landslide victory in the 2011 Scottish parliamentary election, albeit on a 50 per cent turnout, a referendum on independence became a democratic inevitability, and Mr Cameron was right to insist on a straightforward Yes or No question.

The outcome was always likely to be close either way, decided, as so often in plebiscites, by gut instinct and emotional appeal, not by economic considerations or statistical certainties. As Martin Luther King said, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”

Those now queueing up to criticise Mr Cameron for taking the risk of becoming “the prime minister who lost Scotland” are largely the same people who have campaigned for years for a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU – which, if it takes place, will be similarly divisive and unpredictable in outcome.

Philip Duly
Haslemere, Surrey

SIR – I agree with your leading article (September 10): “Let the whole country have a say on… the way the UK is structured”, in respect of Scotland.

As I said in the House of Commons on June 3 1997: “Referendums should not be confined to Scotland and Wales; they should encompass the United Kingdom as a whole…The electors of my constituency and all those of the United Kingdom, including those of England and Northern Ireland, are involved.”

Professors Philip Cowley and Mark Stuart noted in 2003 that the “largest rebellion” of Conservative backbenchers in the 1997-2001 Parliament was on my amendment that day to the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill.

This sought to have the referendum “encompass the whole of the United Kingdom rather than merely those resident in Scotland”. Eighty-two Conservative backbenchers, a full half of the parliamentary party, backed my amendment, against the Whip.

Sir William Cash MP (Con)
London SW1

SIR – The Scots have a UK independence referendum before negotiations. The British are offered an EU independence referendum after negotiations. Both from Mr Cameron. Why?

Trefor Jones
Little Somerford, Wiltshire

SIR – It is not for economic, defence or political reasons that most of us pray for a No vote; it is because we do not see Scotland as separate or alien, we see it and the proud people who live north of the border as part of us.

The majority of Britons, like my family, have ancestors from all over these islands, and we feel proud of the whole, as well as of our part.

Maybe we have not been as clear and as vocal as the Yes campaign, feeling we should not intrude in what has been seen as Scotland’s concern. Perhaps there are those, like me, who feel not a little slighted by what has seemed in Scotland a real dislike of the rest of the United Kingdom, and particularly of all things English.

The rest of us need to shout loud and passionately that we value our brothers and sisters in Scotland, and put to rest the Salmond spin and promises of greener grass beyond an independence vote.

All this said, United Kingdom politicians should not be making promises of almost complete home rule, which, after the vote, can only breed discontent with what the UK does within Scotland at national and international level.

Michael McGarry
Heighington, Co Durham

SIR – For 300 years the United Kingdom punched above its weight economically, diplomatically and militarily, leading to the greatest empire the world has ever known. Even now, we retain an influence remarkable for a relatively small country.

The Scots would be foolish indeed to throw all that away.

Christopher Piggins
Landford Wood, Wiltshire

SIR – Boris Johnson wrote that he is appalled by the complacency and apathy of his non-political friends.

He should instead be appalled by the complacency of his political friends, who have allowed this decision to be made with no advance precision on the terms of the divorce. We read yesterday that in 2012, David Cameron told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that clarity over independence was needed. Instead, we are now paying the price for the uncertainty over what separation actually means.

David Mannering
Langley Burrell, Wiltshire

SIR – This weekend the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland must demonstrate our high regard for our fellow citizens in Scotland, or they will leave our country. I suggest we all meet in Trafalgar Square on Sunday, and in the city centres of Birmingham, Cardiff, Belfast, Manchester and Newcastle.

In the meantime let us email, text or write to those who have a vote, asking them to stay with us. The politicians have failed to win the argument, so it’s time for us all to tell Scots we are better together.

Tim Devlin
London EC4

SIR – If I were a Scot, a visit from three no-hoper English politicians such as Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband would drive me into the Yes camp immediately.

Dr Terry Langford
Milford-on-Sea, Hampshire

SIR – The arrogance of David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband to say, with no vote taken, that the choice is now between independence and “devo-max” is breathtaking.

Given that many people have already cast their postal vote on the simple Yes/No question, they have undemocratically ridden roughshod over years of debate when they specifically refused to allow the devo-max option to be on the ballot paper.

Alistair Muir

SIR – Some years ago I purchased my pension through an insurance company in Scotland. If the result is Yes, will I be paid in Monopoly money?

Jo Powell

SIR – As an English citizen, I may not have a vote on Scottish independence or indeed on whether we should share the pound with a foreign country, but I can make my opinion known. I have today transferred my pension and share investments into the hands of a company based in England.

Glyn Hawkins
Tredington, Warwickshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – A Yes vote in Scotland would be a disaster for England and Wales. It would condemn them to permanent Tory rule. Does Alex Salmond want that? – Yours, etc,


Rowan Hamilton Court,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – With independence for Scotland becoming a very real possibility, would it be an appropriate time to suggest a radical new proposal for the governance of the western flank of these islands? It is a proposal that, if endorsed by the governments of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland, might finally bring about the true reconciliation of the political, religious, cultural and industrial traditions of our 12 million people. The proposal for the setting up a confederation (or even a more formal federation) of the three political entities is not rooted in some misty-eyed dream of a “Celtic” counterbalance to the political dominance of England within what was, in former times, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland but is a practical suggestion on how best to secure long-term peace and prosperity on the northwestern fringe of the European Union in a post-independence scenario.

Such a confederation would have a quarter of the population of these islands and would make up some half of its land mass.

From an economic standpoint, a union of three states with a combined population of some 12 million people would have considerable clout. The current situation where the three governments compete with each other for foreign investment is, self-evidently, in no one country’s best interests. Furthermore, the recent travails Ireland has endured demonstrate all too clearly the fragility of the economic independence of small nations (albeit badly managed ones) where they find themselves at the mercy of troikas that are far more concerned with the stability of the big economic powerhouses in Europe and further afield than with effecting a swift recovery in the countries they are charged to “help”.

Working together, a union of the three states could, in time, become an economic powerhouse in its own right. This is not fanciful. The region has vast natural resources in oil, wind and wave power and it has highly fertile lands and seas that have already spawned a world-class food-based economy.

All three existing states have also been highly successful in attracting some of the world’s leading companies in information technology and pharmaceuticals, in particular – and given that our populations are already among the best educated in the world, the potential for future success is boundless.

Equally, if not more, compelling in making the case for a future union is the quest for a resolution to our political arrangements. The current arrangement on the island of Ireland, while it has produced a very welcome period of comparative peace, continues to leave all traditions on the island with something less than an ideal outcome. Nationalists and republicans still cling to the ideal of a future union of north and south, while unionists of all hues find themselves uneasy about the future of the existing British union in a state where the demographics are against them and the greatest threat to that union comes not from the nationalists within but from those a short distance away across the north channel. That those who now most threaten the union are, for the most part, their own kith and kin can only add to the sense of unease. The confederation of three states proposed would provide “the best of all worlds” for all the traditions in both Ireland and Scotland. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – I am amazed that the people in Scotland do not realise how fortunate they are. We in Ireland achieved independence at a very high price – the wasteful and tragic shedding of blood. On referendum day every Scot can win independence at the stroke of a pen. – Yours, etc,


Newtownpark Avenue,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Your editorial “Scotland’s moment” was invigorating (September 9th). You state correctly that “independence can indeed be good for Scotland”. The referendum campaign has reawakened an interest in real politics and democracy in Scotland, and London has been caught sadly napping.

The Act of Union of 1707 has failed, as has been evident since the Depression in the 1930s in which Scotland, so dependent upon the great industries of the 19th century, suffered severely. It was only a matter of time before the Scots acquired a huge desire for independence and separateness from the English. – Yours, etc,


Shandon Crescent,


Dublin 7.

Sir, – As in so many similar instances, the most preferred option of the Scottish people (“devo-max”) is not on the ballot paper. It is now being offered by the leaders of the three main Westminster parties in a frantic attempt to arrest the drift towards a Yes result.

The referendum and its underlying logic of the majority vote are well past their sell-by date as a means to establish the will of the people. As a method of national self-determination it is deeply flawed and even dangerous.

If, as now seems inevitable, Scotland “decides” by a slender margin, how can this be seen as a democratic mandate for either change or status quo when so many are clearly of another opinion?

All that is confirmed is that the debate is complex, multifaceted and unresolved. At worst it is a mechanism for conflict generation and ensures no collective agreement.

Complex questions abound and they deserve to be addressed and, if possible, resolved through methods that allow for such complexity, include minority perspectives, and that do not silence dissent.

The referendum is a crude, capricious cudgel incapable of reflecting the complexities of modern life and politics. There are other options. – Yours, etc,


Richmond Road,

Dublin 3.

Sir, – Differences in drug prices between here and Northern Ireland are as nothing when compared with those in the US. Last February, while I was swimming in Florida, a jackdaw stole my little bottle of glyceryl nitrate from my beach towel, first flinging aside the cap I had used to keep it out of the sun. It’s an over the counter medicine for “acute heart embarrassment”; here it costs around €16. In the UK, £6. In America, the identical little bottle is $196, “but only $160 if you have insurance, sir”! I nearly had a heart attack, but I waited to replace the bottle until we came back to this land of “socialised” medicine. – Yours, etc,



Birr, Co Offaly.

Sir, – The General Instruction of the Roman Missal was issued by Rome in 2002 in Latin, and published in English by the conference of Irish Catholic Bishops in 2005. It would appear to be yet another of the Catholic Church’s well-kept secrets. In the nine years since it was published, I have heard only one person mention it in the context of a talk on the liturgy and that person was not a priest.

Paragraph 382 reads: “At the funeral Mass there should, as a rule, be a short homily, but never a eulogy of any kind”.

The dictionary definition of eulogy is “A speech or writing in praise of a person”. There is a time and place for a member of the family of the deceased to saw “a few words” either before the start of the requiem Mass or immediately after the end of Mass and before the Rite of Final Commendation or farewell.

In his memoirs, Pope Benedict wrote: “I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is, to a large extend, due to the disintegration of the liturgy”. It is hardly surprising that when the Archbishop of Dublin visits his parishes, he brings his own master of ceremonies with him.

When proper protocol in the sanctuary goes, belief in the supernatural goes. – Yours, etc,


Auburn Road,

Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The discovery of the wreck of one of the two ships belonging to the ill-fated Franklin expedition, lost in the Arctic in 1846, is great news (“Canadians find wreckage from 1845 Arctic expedition”, September 9th).

It is especially pleasing to John Murray, of Crossing the Line Films, and myself, who were the Irish members of the Irish/Canadian search expedition which spent the summers of 2002 and 2003 in the same area searching for the two lost ships, Terror and Erebus.

Dave Woodman, our expedition leader, had identified the most likely search area. In the early summer, before the ice had melted, we painstakingly criss-crossed the area on a sled with a magnetometer attached. Our search was not successful but it was gratifying to see similar technology was employed by the Canadians on their search and that the ship was found only a short distance west of our search area.

Our expedition was poorly resourced compared to that of the Canadian navy, which mounted six major searches since 2008, leading to the solving of part of one of the great mysteries of exploration. I hope this discovery will help lead to the finding of the sister vessel and shed some further light on the fate of the crew. – Yours, etc,


Grange Park,

Foxrock, Dublin 18.

Sir, – Well done, Mary Feely (Prospect of water charges leaving me high and dry”, Opinion & Analysis, September 10th). I feel good when somebody puts forward my case.

We wait for our water bill and the next election with unequal fervour. An average bill has been suggested. Is there a maximum bill? A burst pipe while you are away for the weekend might leave you with soggy carpets but I’m sure Irish Water will be very sympathetic That’s what scares me. Roll on election time. – Yours, etc,



Knocklyon, Dublin 16.

Sir, – The chief executive of Today FM Tom McPartlin (September 10th) takes Una Mullally to task over her article “Women need to raise the volume on radio exclusion”, Opinion & Analysis, September 8th). In doing so he also took a swipe at the dominance of males in the bylined articles in your newspaper. This lack of balance is a problem that print media, radio and television need to address.

However surveys conducted in 2010, 2012 and 2013 show that the Last Word (Today FM) scored lowest when compared with similar programmes on other stations, scoring 14 per cent, 16 per cent and 19 per cent for female participation across the three surveys.

Long may Una continue to write about the lack of female voices on air. – Yours, etc,



Ratoath, Co Meath.

Sir, – I fully agree with Alan Fairbrother (September 6th) on the question of our dropping the Irish “mam” or “ma” in favour of first the Anglo “mum” and now the American “mom”.

I suppose it has to do with our obsession with sounding posh, and fear of, God forbid, sounding Irish ! – Yours, etc,


Grange Park Avenue,


Dublin 5.

Fri, Sep 12, 2014, 01:08

First published: Fri, Sep 12, 2014, 01:08

Sir, – I heard the Minister for Education asking Junior Cert students to “celebrate responsibly”. It is unfortunate that we are not able to speak plainly in Ireland when it comes to alcohol and this indicates our failure to tackle the problem of excessive drinking.

It would be much better if the Minister had advised the students not to take alcohol as part of the celebrations.

Furthermore I presume that almost all Junior Cert students are under 18, which is the legal age the purchase of intoxicating liquor.

The defeatist attitude that says “they will get the drink anyway” represents a culture of neglect which the employment of more social workers will not address. – Yours, etc,



A chara, – There has been a recent spate of letters to your paper complaining about “unelected representatives” making decisions that affect urban and rural centres, most notably the Poolbeg incinerator. I, for one, am thankful that important decisions are taken out of the hands of part-time politicians with unproven qualifications in whichever respective arena they are commenting on, playing party politics with important decisions that will affect citizens now and in the future. – Is mise,


Priory Grove,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Far be it from me to defend a Fianna Fáil minister but my good friend Cllr Victor Boyhan (September 11th) is really blaming the wrong man. It was Martin Cullen who transferred responsibility for waste policy to county managers not Noel Dempsey. While Mr Cullen and Phil Hogan would be close contestants in a “worst minister for the environment and local government ever competition”, Mr Dempsey, along with Brendan Howlin and John Gormley, actually tried to bring in real reforms. The only common denominators were the permanent senior officials in the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

I hope the new Minister will be the first in a long time to stand up and remind them that they are there to serve the people and not perpetuate the power of the Irish “Sir Humphreys”. – Yours, etc,


Beech Hill Drive,


Dublin 4.

Sir, – When Jean-Claude Juncker unveiled his team of commissioners on Wednesday, he did so on a set which had as its backdrop the words “The Juncker Commission” obtrusively displayed. Shouldn’t that have read “The European Commission”? – Yours, etc,


Bóthar an Chillín,

An Cheathrú Rua,

Co na Gaillimhe.

Sir, – Minister for Communication Alex White “vows to bring fast broadband to rural areas” (September 10th). And then he’ll drain the Shannon. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – It is very ironic to hear Mr Kenny getting annoyed with Leo Varadkar’s comments on the upcoming budget.

After all, this Government has been like a sieve when it comes to pre-budget leaks and comments.

Sadly, one of the only reasons Mr Kenny’s Government will be remembered will be for the ongoing stream of speculative pre budget comments and leaks, most of which were untrue, and which irritated the general public during very difficult times.

A new way of doing politics indeed. – Yours, etc,


Pine Valley Avenue,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – “Cogito ergo sum”, wrote René Descartes back in 1644. Well, this autumn sees Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and Labour engaging in their annual version of that celebrated proposition in order to justify their political existence. I think-in, therefore I am! – Yours, etc,


Marley Avenue,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – What has the humble hyphen done to be treated with such indifference? In your edition of September 6th, we saw “cohost”, “coanchor”, “copresenter” and “coworker”. – Yours, etc,


Rathgar Park,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – Not a street cry, but a memory of the Dublin wit of the newspaper sellers of the 1950s. I asked for a Daily Mail and the reply I received was “I’m here every day. Will I do?” – Yours, etc,


St Helen’s Road,


Co Dublin.

Irish Independent:

According to reports in the media in recent weeks, the Government is examining the income tax rates and the Universal Social Charge (USC) in advance of Budget 2015. However, it appears that the hinted changes (if any) will be too modest and uncourageous to make any difference to Ireland’s economy or to economic confidence.

The effective marginal rate of income tax in Ireland (including 7pc for USC and 4pc for employee PRSI) is 52pc for individuals; it is 55pc (thanks to an additional 3pc USC “levy”) if one has the audacity to be self-employed as a result of setting up your own business. These are rates of taxation that are unquestionably anti-enterprise and confiscatory. We should contrast these Irish rates with the 45pc top rate of income tax currently in place in Britain.

What needs to happen is that Ireland must get a Budget this October that supports growth. Everything in the Budget must support indigenous enterprise. To this end, the marginal rates of taxation must be reduced. Cutting the top rates of tax (not merely changing the point at which people enter tax bands, but actually reducing the top rates) will encourage enterprise and employment because it will allow businesses to retain more of the money that they earn. This means that people can invest in their businesses by hiring more staff and purchasing new equipment, or create new businesses.

It would also, crucially, help greatly to encourage talented people to remain in Ireland, instead of emigrating. Merely fiddling with the tax bands – which is a political cop-out, devoid of courage – would do little to change the true perception in Ireland today, that we are living in a very high-tax country which is a cold house for indigenous enterprise.

For the national finances to be balanced, Ireland needs a combination of public-spending control and real economic growth. It is now time to work on the growth by cutting the marginal rates of tax.

John B Reid, Monkstown, Co Dublin

Keeping the seasons Irish

On the RTE 1 ‘Nine O’Clock News’ on Monday, September 1, Mr Gerry Murphy, Met Office forecaster, announced that, “In Ireland, autumn is September, October and November”. As bald as that.

The Irish Met Office has a web page entitled ‘Fun Facts for Young Primary Students’, which starts, “Spring begins on the first of March and continues until the end of May”.

This is all bureaucratic propaganda, because it is not true. In Ireland, as Patrick Dinneen says in his dictionary, “Earrach, the spring, begins on La Fheile Bhride, February 1, and ends on the day before La Bealtaine, May 1″. The months of autumn are August, September (or Mean Fomhair, the middle of autumn) and October (or Deireadh Fomhair, the end of autumn).

This is a beautiful division of the year, with ceremonies attached to the opening days of each season, and each season balanced perfectly around a significant centre: spring equinox, mid-summer, autumn equinox and mid-winter.

We should not try to change an essential part of our culture, a part that connects us in the Ireland of today, through an unbroken folk tradition, with our Gaelic, pre-Norman past. If the Met Office needs to talk to the British Met Office in official terms, ones that require the meteorological year to be different from Ireland’s traditional calendar, let them do that, but leave us our spiritual and historical cultural division.

Michael Brennan, Address with Editor


Scottish poll and Burns’s ghost

I am amazed that the people in Scotland do not realise how fortunate they are. We in Ireland achieved independence at a very high price: the wasteful and tragic shedding of blood.

On referendum day, every Scot can win independence at the stroke of a pen.

J Anthony Gaughan, Blackrock, Co Dublin


Despite all the talking leading up to the Scottish Referendum, I hear a deafening silence. Is the past taboo, no longer relevant for Scotland’s future? Am I out of line for even mentioning it? Do Wallace, Bruce and Burns not stir any Scottish hearts any more?

Sean McElgunn, Belcoo, Co Fermanagh


GAA replay bonanza

With the expected bonanza from the replay of the hurling final, perhaps the GAA should now sing the song ‘Not Counting You’, by Garth Brooks to the Croke Park protesters?

Mick Hannon, Clones, Co Monaghan


Goodwill gesture from Ryanair

Given that Ryanair is regularly the target of widespread criticism on various issues, I consider it worthwhile to publicly record my recent experience in dealing with the company. Some months ago, I booked a return flight to Spain for my husband and myself costing €320. Subsequently, my husband was diagnosed with a serious illness, and we had to abandon our holiday plans.

I advised Ryanair of our situation and when I furnished it with medical confirmation of our story, I received a very sympathetic message and assurance that our money would be reimbursed in full. It was promptly lodged to our account. In times of stress, such goodwill gestures provide a necessary and much-needed morale boost.

Mary Aherne Ryan, Cappamore, Co Limerick


Junior Cert results night

Surely, it’s time to switch the day that teenagers receive their Junior Certificate results? Instead of students receiving them on Wednesday, results should be given out on a Friday.

Thus, students could go out on Friday night and not miss any school the following day. Thousands of students will have missed school after venturing out. It doesn’t make any sense, and neither pupils nor parents nor teachers benefit.

Chris Callaghan, Ramelton, Co Donegal


We’re not all farmers

We now have a Farming Commissioner, a Farming Minister, and a Taoiseach leading the Party of the Big Farmer in Government. What about the rest of us? That is to say, the people who pay for it?

Harry Mulhern, Millbrook Road, Dublin


Hospital hygiene: name names

As a member of the public and a HSE employee, I am fed up hearing about reports in the newspapers and other media outlets from state bodies such as the HIQA about non-compliance by some members of staff in hospitals regarding hand hygiene.

Why do these auditors not confront the individual regarding their poor hand hygiene practice when the non-compliance is observed and note the particular staff member’s name, profession and department within the hospital?

It is very easy to submit a report about these alleged non-compliances without names – start naming the individuals and the department in which they are employed in the audit reports using a separate appendix attached to the report, which would be exempt from FOI/public information, and submit this list to the relevant hospital manager.

Following this, the individuals should then be required to successfully complete hand-hygiene training within a tight time constraint, ie 48 hours, and submit a certification for hygiene training to the HIQA or the audit team.

On a second or subsequent non-compliance by the same person, they should be disciplined.

Dermot Duke, Drogheda, Co Louth

Irish Independent

Quiet day

September 11, 2014

11 September 2014 Quiet day

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A sunny but cool day. I potter around.

Mary’s back not much better today, duck for tea and her back pain is still there.


Jim Dobbin – obituary

Jim Dobbin was a Labour MP who opposed gay marriage and demanded mandatory testing and registration for cyclists

Jim Dobbin

Jim Dobbin Photo: UPPA/PHOTOSHOT

5:48PM BST 10 Sep 2014


Jim Dobbin, the Labour MP for Heywood and Middleton, who has died aged 73, chaired the All-Party Pro-Life Group and trenchantly opposed same-sex marriage; his final contribution in the Commons, days before his sudden death, was to urge caution over producing “three-parent designer babies”.

He had already been selected to stand again at next year’s election, by which time he would have been 74. He died in Slupsk, Poland while on a Council of Europe delegation to present the city with the Europe Prize.

Dobbin’s politics combined a devout Catholicism, a Scot’s distrust of military involvements overseas, a scientist’s thirst for proof and a socialism that put him some way to the Left of the party leadership. He was widely respected, Lord Prescott terming him “an excellent local MP, a strong believer in Europe, a proud Scot and a passionate defender of the NHS”.

In July he co-sponsored a motion criticising Israel’s action in Gaza, telling David Cameron: “I cannot stress strongly enough the disbelief and shock communicated by constituents of mine, when considering the Coalition Government’s response.

“Where is the plan for a safe and secure future for the Middle East? What action is the Government taking? Constituents are asking for peaceful action that leads to acknowledgement of the legitimate claims of the Palestinians to statehood, leading to a viable Palestine, alongside a secure Israel.”

Last winter Dobbin upset the cycling lobby by calling during a Transport Select Committee session for all cyclists to be registered and tested. Some accused him of being a “dinosaur” when he complained of cyclists ignoring the Highway Code and scratching car paintwork.

Yet Dobbin’s opposition to same-sex marriage – articulated in a Commons speech in February last year as well as consistent “Noes” in the division lobby – made the greatest impact. “Marriage,” he declared, “is primarily an institution that supports the bearing and raising of children in a committed and constant relationship.

“The traditional understanding of marriage has three basic elements: it is between a man and a woman, it is for life, and it is to the exclusion of all others.” These crucial elements were “designed not to exclude people or create inequality, but to promote the unique benefit of marriage in our society: it secures family environments and provides the essential qualities of safety and reliability for children.”

Challenging the idea that same-sex marriage was about equality and fairness, Dobbin added: “The equality agenda has been narrowly limited to dogmatic principles of uniformity. Such language makes open debate and disagreement look like prejudice.”

James Dobbin was born at Kincardine, central Scotland, on May 26 1941, the son of William Dobbin, a miner, and the former Catherine McCabe. From St Columba’s high school, Cowdenbeath and St Andrew’s, Kirkcaldy, he completed his studies at Napier College, Edinburgh.

Joining the NHS as a microbiologist in 1966, Dobbin moved south, working mainly at the Royal Oldham Hospital. He was elected to Rochdale council in 1983, leading its Labour group from 1994 and the council after Labour took control in 1996.

Dobbin fought Bury North in 1992, then was selected for Heywood and Middleton to succeed the retiring Jim Callaghan (not the former prime minister). As Labour under Tony Blair swept to power in 1997, Dobbin was elected with a majority of 17,542.

At Westminster he became a member of the European Scrutiny Committee, serving until his death. Generally loyal to the Labour government, he rebelled against the Iraq war, and voted for a fully elected House of Lords – and more recently for a Mansion Tax.

When the furore over MPs’ expenses erupted in 2009, Dobbin had one of the lowest bills overall, though it did include £400 for decking for the garden of his London home. He had, however, made one of the largest claims for staff – £99,700 – justifying it because of the size of his constituency. That staff included his wife, the leader of Rochdale council and one current and one former Labour councillor.

Re-elected in 2010 with a majority of 5,971, Dobbin became a forceful critic of the Coalition’s social policies. He was also Fusilier Lee Rigby’s MP, saying after the soldier’s murder by two Islamists in Woolwich last year that the death had “absolutely traumatised” people in Middleton.

As a Catholic and a scientist, Dobbin watched closely the argument on mitochondrial replacement, which would create what have been dubbed “three-parent designer babies”. Referring to tests on the process that have yet to be completed, he warned: “Denying Parliament the opportunity to examine these results seems difficult to defend.

“In effect, it would be asking the House to vote blind on the safety of techniques that the House might reject outright on the basis of the results. LET us be clear and honest about this: the results could not be published and peer reviewed in time for the rumoured vote in the autumn.”

Jim Dobbin was invested as a Knight of the Pontifical Order of St Gregory the Great in 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI.

He married Pat Russell in 1964; they had two sons and two daughters.

Jim Dobbin, born May 26 1941, died September 6 2014


I do not need Michael Gove to explain to me what antisemitism is (Gove attacks ‘antisemitic’ Israel boycotts, 10 September). I have been the object of antisemitism by two Conservative MPs, Sir Charles Taylor, who told me to “Get back to Tel Aviv”, and Sir Alec Douglas-Home, who admonished me that my loyalty should be to this country and not to Israel, bringing the proceedings of the House of Commons to a roaring halt. Harold Macmillan referred to me antisemitically in his diaries.

Of course the Holocaust, the Nazi slaughter of 6 million Jews, including many members of my family, was an atrocity unparalleled in human history. That does not provide justification for the Israelis murdering thousands of Palestinians. Since governments take no action against these massacres, it is right that communities and individuals should boycott Israeli products.
Gerald Kaufman
Labour, Manchester Gorton

• Mr Gove creates the all-too-common (and deliberate?) confusion between antisemitism and anti-Zionism. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) is symbol of opposition to the policies of the state of Israel’s policies, in relation to the occupation, the continued building of settlements, the imprisonment of children and the murderous attacks on Gaza.

There should never be any devaluation of the Holocaust, and antisemitism should always be resolutely resisted. Very unfortunately some protesters also confuse antisemitism and anti-Zionism. Where Mr Gove is right is that “we need to stand united against hate” – but that of course includes Palestinians, and even Hamas, who are at least partially a product of Zionism. BDS should continue and grow, including a total arms embargo, until Israel is willing to seriously negotiate with all Palestinians, including Hamas. That was how the original apartheid state was brought to the table, with the hated ANC, and that is what needs to happen again.
Rev David Haslam
Evesham, Worcestershire

• Michael Gove needs to be reminded that one case is not a reliable basis for generalisation. Yes, the Nazi boycott of Jewish goods was followed by the Holocaust but the campaign against South African apartheid was not followed by the mass killing of whites. He also needs to be more careful in his assertions: the Tricycle theatre did not reject “Israeli money” because it came from Israel but because it came from the government of Israel, which is instrumental in the denial of Palestinian human rights and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The Palestinian call for the boycott of Israel is absolutely clear in its opposition to all forms of racism.
Professor David E Pegg

• Antisemites and defenders of Israel seem united in the delusion that opposition to Israel means hatred of Jews. Most people, I hope, can see the difference. Responsible politicians and commentators should make it clear that many Jews and non-Jews are critical of Israel’s policies without being antisemitic, and not fuel this dangerous fallacy.
Caryl Churchill

• Avi Shlaim (Israel will find wisdom when it admits its mistakes, 8 September) shamefully glorifies a designated terror group whose fighters, according to him, have “reasons for rejoicing”, for standing firm while their “spirit did not break”. Shlaim admits that Hamas “is guilty of terrorism”, yet says it should not be labelled as terrorist, because it is “also a legitimate political actor”. This argument makes little sense, and did not convince the European Union last year when it designated Hezbollah as a terror group, despite its role in the Lebanese government. Terror groups should be isolated, not “let off the hook”, as demonstrated just a few days ago when the president of the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen, harshly criticised Hamas for the group’s responsibility in instigating the Gaza conflict. It seems that while both Palestinians and Israelis are seeing the situation for what it is – a conflict between moderates and radical terror – Shlaim’s piece reflects an outdated narrative that is not only anti-Israeli but arguably anti-Palestinian.
Yiftah Curiel
Spokesperson, embassy of Israel, London

• Avi Shlaim’s excellent article explains why Israel’s current policies cannot bring it peace or security. The article’s flaw is the unspoken assumption that Israel wants peace and security. Since 1948, Israel’s aim has, demonstrably, been ever greater expansion by means of dispossessing Palestinians. The map of military conquests and settlements in the West Bank, including down the Jordan Valley, show over time how well that aim has been realised – and continues to be realised. Israel wants not peace and security but Palestinian, Arab and world acquiescence in this continual expansion. The various “peace processes” have nothing to do with peace and everything to do with providing a smokescreen to this end.
Mike Davies
Chair, Alliance for Green Socialism

• While the author’s intentions are no doubt good, articles such as this are detrimental to the cause of peace. Mr Shlaim admits that “Hamas is indeed guilty of terrorism” and that it “vehemently denies the legitimacy of Israel”. Surely, conferring any sort of political legitimacy to such an organisation (as the author suggests) would only reward terrorism, while weakening those Palestinians more amenable to a peaceful solution. Hamas – which has claimed responsibility for numerous suicide bombings – is no more “a legitimate political actor” than Isis, al-Qaida, al-Shabaab or Boko Haram. Peace has never been achieved by empowering extremists, or by placing demands on just one side; but by working with the moderates in both camps. Both sides need to recognise that this is a conflict of right v right, not right v wrong; that both peoples are there by right, not sufferance. This is key: once this is recognised, mutual concessions, accommodation and respect become the self-evident next steps.
Noru Tsalic

• I am a Jew, committed to the Jewish religion and the ethical values of justice, mercy and compassion. As such, I deplore the Israeli aggression against the people of Gaza. I hope that the present ceasefire will eventually lead to a wider agreement.

It has come to my attention that the deputy lord mayor of Cardiff, Cllr Ali Ahmed, has been reported to the south Wales police by the Liberal Democrat opposition, on the grounds that he referred to rockets fired by Hamas against Israel as “toy rockets” and that this reference was offensive to the Jewish community.

It would have been preferable, that instead of using the words “toy rockets”, he has said that “the damage done by Israel is not comparable with the Israeli bombing on the people of Gaza”; that may have been more explanatory. However, the sentiments that he expressed are the sentiments shared, not only by many Jews like myself but also of some Israelis with regard to their own government.

There is no need for the deputy lord mayor to resign. He is a man who has a strong commitment to ethical principles.
Walter Wolfgang
Former member, Labour party NEC; vice-president, CND; national steering committee member, Stop the War Coalition

• One night, when I was 13, I was woken by the sound of a door being broken down. Boots stumbled up the stairs, there was loud shouting, and a terrifying series of crashes. Nazi stormtroopers had identified our house as the home of a Jewish family, and this was the night of 9 November 1938, when the Kristallnacht pogrom raged across Germany. Our entire home was destroyed before our eyes, with axes and sledgehammers.

I have a vivid recollection of my father, after the monsters had gone, sitting on the one chair that remained and weeping. I had never seen him weep before. I now realise that, but for the presence of myself and my younger sister, my parents might not have survived the raid. It was a brutal demonstration of our situation. My sister and I left Germany on the last Kindertransport from Düsseldorf in May 1939. We have never had a full account of our parents’ fate.

Even now, I sometimes start up in bed, reliving that night. But in recent weeks, it is more often images of devastation in Gaza – of homes and families destroyed in Israeli targetings of such “military objectives” as the homes of officials in the democratically elected Hamas government – that have recalled the terror of the Kristallnacht. For I can hardly believe that a Jewish government is doing these things. How can Jewish people, aware of their own history, undertake a campaign of collective punishment that kills a higher multiple of the casualties cited as justification, than did the Nazi reprisals for resistance in occupied Europe?

Surely we have reached the point where every government not composed of utter humbugs must join in insisting that an Israeli renunciation of ambitions for expansion beyond the 1947 boundaries is a prerequisite for progress towards reconciliation and peace within a two-state solution. The very doubtful prospect of a unified, multinational, secular state in Palestine appears to be the only alternative.
Karola Regent
Newport-on-Tay, Fife

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a visit to Edinburgh David Cameron gets all Breaking Bad on a visit to Scotland. Photograph: Reuters

If the Scots feel that they no longer belong in the UK, then of course they should vote for separation. But the debate should be based on facts. George Monbiot’s rant against UK solidarity ignores the facts (A yes vote would unleash the most potent force of all, 10 September).

In the late 1950s and 60s when Scotland’s GDP per head was around 10% below the UK average, it was one of the poorest parts of the UK. But, as Gavin McCrone, one of Scotland’s leading economists, has shown in his book, Scottish Independence, by 2011, Scotland’s gross added value per head was 98.6% of the UK average – exceeded only by London and the south-east. This seems to me to reflect UK solidarity, not its absence.

That solidarity also enabled Alistair Darling in 2008 to bail out the Royal Bank of Scotland to the tune of £46bn after the disastrous takeover by RBS of a Dutch bank. Would an independent Scotland have been able to do that?

The tragic irony is that, without the solidarity of the UK government, the people who would have suffered the most from a collapse of the bank are the very underprivileged in the central belt of Scotland who appear to be swinging towards a yes vote. It is they who have the most to lose if independence does not bring the economic benefits that Alex Salmond has promised.
Vernon Bogdanor
Professor of government, King’s College London

• While Tom Holland and the Let’s Stay Together campaign may appeal to “our mutual bonds of affection and admiration” (Comment, 9 September), he, like the political leaders in Westminster, is missing a crucial point. For over two years we in Scotland have been debating the issue of independence. During this time Scots have discussed and considered various solutions to deal with our genuine grievances. What we have not had from the political elite at Westminster is a single concrete policy proposal to address these concerns. All we see is arrogance from the unionist parties matched by complacency from an English electorate who want to “love-bomb” us but have failed to ensure that real political alternatives were offered. Thanks for your affection, Tom; what we really wanted was your political support.
Geoff Earl

• Your choice of headline (Party leaders take the high road, 10 September) may be prescient. In the song, he who must “take the high road” to Loch Lomond is already dead while he who is able to “take the low road” is alive. Will Cameron, Miliband, Clegg and Salmond never meet again?
Iain Mackintosh

• Someone should tell Steve Bell that it is not the “royal brat” who is going to save the union (If…, G2, 9 September), but Nigel Farage, who is going to descend on us next Friday, followed on Saturday by the Grand Orange Orders of Scotland and Northern Ireland. Both guaranteed to delight the yes campaign.
Myra Gartshore

• Is it just me with this scene on a mental loop: David Cameron as Walter White in the Ozymandias episode of Breaking Bad, thundering: “We’re a family!”

Just me then.
Karen Peploe
Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire

Magazines on a stand in a newsagents. Image shot 09/2009. Exact date unknown. The new press regulator took over on Monday. Photograph: Alamy/Apex

Your leader on (Judgment on Ipso, 5 September) is apt in its analysis and expectation of a system for the independent self-regulation of the newspaper industry. You express, correctly, a perspicacious view of the Leveson inquiry and its aftermath. It is not too extreme to say that Sir Brian Leveson sought simultaneously to promote freedom of speech for the press as well as the regulation of certain incursions only into matters of privacy. Sir Brian’s report was, as you observe, cautiously welcome, but it has predictably been portrayed otherwise. What you now prescribe for the new organisation that took over on Monday is in line with what I, as the last chairman of the Press Council in all-too-short a time (1988-90), endeavoured to achieve. It was Pressbof (the industry’s newly created paymaster in 1988) that ordered the disbandment of the Press Council. It should be imperative that Ipso is adequately funded, at the insistence of the new chairman, Sir Alan Moses.

The Press Council was composed, as to half of its membership, of non-journalistic persons from a wide variety of occupations. The history (including the independent element in its chairmanship since 1966) was virtually ignored by Sir Brian, on the grounds that I could give evidence only on historical matters that were not strictly within his terms of reference. The historical aspect of the regulatory system before 1991, when the Press Complaints Commission took over (20 out of the 1,978 pages of Sir Brian’s report), is, sad to relate, inaccurate in several important respects.
Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC
Chairman of the Press Council 1988-90

• Is it appropriate in a democratic society that so many public appointments, of which the new press regulator Impress is the latest, require those applying to have worked at “a senior level in a public or professional capacity”? (And did they mean to exclude senior private sector experience, common in so many public appointment ads?) Impress will not be a big organisation and might benefit from not being dominated by another set of establishment suits. Recruiting from the senior and successful also discriminates against women and ethnic minorities. Open application and fair assessment of all candidates are surely the least we should expect from this and many other public bodies.
Peter West

Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community gather for humanitarian aid Displaced Iraqis from the Yazidi community gather for humanitarian aid at the Syria-Iraq border at Feeshkhabour border point, northern Iraq. Photograph: Khalid Mohammed/AP

As faith leaders we are called to dedicate ourselves to serving the poor and vulnerable both at home and overseas; we therefore call on MPs to attend and save lives by voting in favour of overseas aid legislation in parliament on Friday. The proposed bill means that the UK government will continue to honour Britain’s commitment to spend the 0.7% of our national income on international aid, a promise made in all three main parties’ manifestos and the coalition agreement of the current government.

Despite challenges at home, we should be proud to be a nation that has kept our promise to the world’s poor and upheld our responsibilities of fairness and generosity. Every day UK aid saves and changes lives and helps to respond to humanitarian crises like those in Iraq and Syria.

Enshrining our commitment in law would ensure that our support continues until it is no longer needed and will enable us to focus our efforts on making certain that UK aid is having the greatest possible impact, transforming and improving lives. By voting for aid legislation, MPs can play their part in the solutions to global poverty – we urge them to seize the historic opportunity presented by this bill.
Rabbi Danny Rich Chief executive, Liberal Judaism, Rt Rev Dr Alastair Redfern Bishop of Derby, Shuja Shafi Secretary general, Muslim Council of Britain, Rt Rev William Kenney Auxiliary bishop of Birmingham

As outgoing women’s editor Jane Martinson indicates (Four years on the feminist frontline, G2, 2 September), a major problem with the overrepresentation of men in the media, and public life more generally, is its invisibility. The appointment of a men’s editor might help to address this by drawing attention to maleness as gendered rather than the standard model of mankind [sic]. An encouraging example of male visibility has been set by the television channel movies4men, whose conflict-and-cowboy dominated schedules, however, are often indistinguishable from the daytime offerings of some supposedly gender-neutral film channels. Such commendable honesty could well be practised by programmes which regularly feature men and women in a ratio of 3:1 or worse. Thus we might have, for instance, Men’s Match of the Day, Men in the Saturday Kitchen, and Have Men Got News for You. Mastermind and the channel Dave, of course, need not change a thing.
Jean Northam

• And if (heaven forfend) Kate Middleton’s morning sickness does not settle following Justin Welby’s prayers (Report, 9 September), can we take that as proof positive that there is no God, or simply assume that She heeds not the supplications of her Main Man? Either way, the duchess appears to be stuffed.
Sylvia Lockett

• George and Mildred, perhaps?
Mick Beeby

• Poutine originated in the late 1980s (Farewell, doner kebab – hello, poutine, G2, 8 September)? Get a grip! French Canadians in Montreal had been eating poutine for at least 10 years in the late 1960s, along with “mae wests” and Pepsi.
Mabel Taylor
Knutsford, Cheshire

• Before we all get bored stiffof uses for a whisky tin (Letters, 6 September), I have always used one to store my rolled-up Panama hat. Keeps it safe, dry and moth-free, and it unfurls perfectly every time.
Paul Cabrelli

• Vatican’s first cricket team (Report, 10 September)? Acts 2:14: “Peter stood up with the eleven.”
Rev Tony Bell
Rochester, Kent

The arguments of the no campaign are no weightier (Michael White, 5 September) – they boil down to the currency question and uncertainty about future EU membership, both essentially political issues which are bound to be resolved by agreement – like all political questions – when the electioneering is over.

There is far more to the movement for independence than “desperate , insouciant optimism” – more than anything it’s a desire to be in charge of their own affairs as much as a small country which belongs to the EU can expect to be and this has an appeal that goes far beyond the SNP or Alex Salmond pace the patronising impressions of London-based commentator.
Conor Magill

• Although it is clear that the complexity of events following a yes vote in Scotland has been significantly underestimated, I sympathise with the many in Scotland who must yearn for the day when they can no longer be under the cosh of any conservative government. Scotland has a natural tendency towards a society built on fairness, justice and decent public services and must deeply resent the marginalisation of its priorities and values.

In terms of what is archaically referred to as the United Kingdom, a yes vote would offer an exciting opportunity to reform our sclerotic, creaking, hugely expensive and sometimes corrupt houses of parliament. The four assemblies of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should be proportionally represented in an elected upper house, sweeping away the House of Lords with all its velvet and ermine. Might it even be possible to be citizens rather than subjects in a secular state where religion is a private matter, divisive faith schools a thing of the past and all religions are required to respect the laws of the land.

A refreshing wind of change would be very welcome.
Irene Short
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

• “No other issue now matters in British politics, “writes Martin Kettle (8 September). I’d say nothing better illustrates the chasm between the perception the Westminster political and media village has of Scottish independence and that of people in England, if our corner of England is any guide to it. In our street, indeed if listening as well to conversations in pubs, shops and the market tells me anything, there isn’t any interest in the issue at all. I’ve heard no one talking about it, no one is in the slightest bother over it, and I would bet my house that if I stood in the high street of this Cheshire town with a questionnaire tomorrow, nine of 10 people would, if asked, not know what is happening up in Scotland a week on Thursday.

Because the fact is, for all the hype, Scotland going independent won’t make a blind bit of difference to anyone in England. The whisky will still flow south, people will still take holidays in that most beautiful of countries, the Scots will still carry on coming down here to find work, English blokes and Scottish girls will still meet up and marry. During the Glasgow late summer fortnight holiday, the Glaswegians will still come in their thouands to the Lakes, to Blackpool, to the Yorkshire Dales, to England’s south coast for the sunshine and of course to Manchester to see civilisation at its best. Nothing real as far as English people are concerned is about to change.

But it will of course for the Scots. They will rule themselves. As indeed they should. Why should they be ruled by English MPs who make up some 550 of the 650 MPs in the Commons, by some 90% of the 800 or so lords who decorate the so-called upper house and by the public school toffs and the Oxbridge elite who dominate the judiciary, parliament, the civil service and the newspaers? Yes, why should they? They’d be mad to vote no. They’ve got one of the loveliest magnets in all of Europe for mass income from tourism in the shape of the Highlands and the isles, any amount of hydro-electric power, oil and gas in the North Sea, a great education service, a health service that is there to serve the sick and not the pockets of investors, and one of the most enterprising manufacturing and scientific traditions in the world. They’ve got it all before them. And they’d go independent without the slightest resentment from English people. We do not mind. Only the Westminster politicos do, and who gives a fig for that lot?
Michael Knowles
Congleton, Cheshire

• Do the quasi-Scots who are still espousing the Better Together campaign not realise they are strangling our political freedom? In the event of a no vote, and even if the British electorate delivered a Labour government at the next general election, in the larger scheme of things it would only be a fleeting visit to power.

However, unlike Labour supporters in England, Scottish Labour is customarily more leftwing but, when sitting 400 miles away at Westminster, through no fault of their own, have as much bite as a toothless tiger, incapable of giving Scotland satisfactory representation.

In any event, it will only be a matter of time, and perhaps a lot sooner that we think, until the Tory-Labour swings-and-roundabouts scenario takes a back seat to accommodate a Tory/Ukip coalition.

It would be a tragedy if we gave up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to choose a Scotland where governments, of any political hue, would be more concerned about social and political justice for Scottish people than any London government would.

We should not be listening to careerist, synthetic Scottish politicians with whom Rabbie Burns might have recognised certain similarities with the earlier treacherous nobles, hastening him to coin the phrase: “We’re bought and sold for English gold, such a parcel of rogues in a nation.”

It is unfortunate, but too many people in Scotland do not seem to know the difference between the reality of freedom and the illusion of freedom. We should listen to our heads, hearts and souls and not end up spending a lifetime lamenting the great opportunity we missed.
William Burns

• I am not a nationalist. With a liberal Scottish Presbyterian father and a conservative English Catholic mother, I grew up in an atmosphere of tolerance and good humour. Working in both Scotland and England I always defended a tolerant marriage of differences rather than a petulant split because of them. The occasional victim mentality I met north of the border (“It’s all the fault of the English”) irked me as much as the casual ignorance which provoked it south of the border (“Why do these Scots whinge on so about the poll tax?). As a hybrid, I longed for each country to understand and accommodate the other better. Devolution in 1998 cheered me, and I looked for more both in Scotland and all parts of the UK. I did not initially welcome the independence debate, wary of the divisiveness it could cause. I despaired at David Cameron, early on, striking the middle of the road “devo max” possibility from the ballot paper.

Faced with a polarised yes or no vote, I naturally leant more towards Better Together, but was dismayed to find nothing positive I could vote for in their campaign. All I found were dire threats of all the future uncertainties involved in a yes vote, with no honest admission of the equally uncertain future a no vote implied. Better Together parties, amazingly late in the day, have promised to devolve more powers to Scotland but this promise has no reliable substance since they themselves are not together, and will be fighting each other tooth and nail in next year’s general election. If the Ukip vote continues to rise, no one knows or can predict what strange compromises may be born in Westminster 2015, regarding both EU membership and Scottish devolution.

The firm and unexamined assumption in the no campaign is that we are all very much better together. Well, by the evidence to date, are we? I had to admit that after decades of voting either Liberal or Labour I now live in a country where hundreds of thousands of British children are being shifted into poverty, where food banks have become a new necessity, and where social inequality is ever increasing. This is not an inevitable result of the financial crisis. It is the inevitable result of government austerity measures, backed by all three main parties, in response to that crisis. These economic policies favour the wealthy, and it is the poor and vulnerable who are paying for the financial crisis. Continuing welfare cuts are backed by Labour, and after the dreary disillusionment of the Blair years I can no longer trust a Labour government, if elected, to deliver the fair society that was John Smith’s vision.

Turning to the yes campaign, I looked not at Alex Salmond and the rhetoric, but at the actual results in Scotland of SNP policy decisions. I see that the NHS in Scotland, though struggling, has been firmly protected from the ravaging changes that are transforming the service forever in England and Wales. I see that the priorities are care of the elderly, supporting the less well-off, and above all a firm commitment not to put our young people into impossible debt if they wish to go to university. England has stopped investing in its single most important asset – its young people. Scotland (though far from perfect) has not. All the data shows that nothing fast forwards social inequality more rapidly than the introduction of hefty university tuition fees.

The central question is surely: which option offers the best chance of developing a more caring, creative and equitable society for all our children to live in, and contribute to? I have to admit the greater possibility, and the only vision, lies with the yes campaign. So much so that should Scotland become independent, my concern is more for England and Wales. Hopefully, an independent Scotland establishing a fairer more caring society (one that is natural to so many people in England and Wales) will help stimulate the English and Welsh peoples’ own long-overdue debate with a centralised Westminster government whose targets have become so predominantly monetary.

I will be voting yes, though more in grief than grievance. But I will also have a swing in my ballot box step for the first time in many years, at the thought of more imaginative possibilities ahead. I hope that both my parents, whose commitment to fairness and social justice was far deeper than any allegiance to political party or country, would understand.
Mary Gillies

• And so the gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands for the beloved union begins. So beloved by those who profess to cherish it and seek to defend it at all costs, that it’s taken until just 10 days to go to the poll for them to seriously contemplate the reform needed to transform it into a workable solution for everyone in these isles.

We’ve had patronising hauteur and dismissive brow-beating, intermingled with vacuous (if well-intentioned) pleas from sportsmen, celebrities and actors. But no meaningful attempt to consider this an opportunity to reappraise and refresh democracy so that it serves the interests of all and not some.

Whatever the result, hopefully this whole event may wake people from their slumber and engage with what it means, or should mean, be a participating citizen in a 21st-century capitalist democracy. As opposed to a docile consumer-cum-subject in a delusional post-imperial parody.
Colin Montgomery

• As the scots (Alex Salmond included, I expect) like to quote Robert Burns, maybe the yes voters should remember this from Does Haughty Gaul Invasion Threat: Be Britain still to Britain true, Amang ourselves united; For never but by British hands Maun British wrangs be righted!
Dennis Falloon
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

• Excuse me for being a bit naive here, but if the Scots decide to leave the union, surely everyone benefits, particularly (from a fiscal point of view) the English. And the one person who has everything to gain from Scottish independence is David Cameron, since his party will walk into power again at the next election.

So would someone please explain the problem to me.
John Davison

• Alastair Deighton asks “How can so-called progressives have become so bewitched by a nationalist movement?” (Letters, 9 September). It is because the assumed progressives, the Labour party, have entered illegal wars, engorged the bankers and deserted the needy. They sent us Gordon Brown. How busted can a flush get?
Denis Jackson

• Were I a Scot I’d be voting yes for all the reasons set out in the independence arguments. But there is another reason: surely the end of the UK would mean the end of Ukip. Is Nigel Farage currently working on a new name for his party? English, Welsh and Northern Irish Independence Party doesn’t quite do it.
Barbara Richardson

A Union Flag and Scottish Saltire fly over Britain's Cabinet Office in central London A union flag and Scottish saltire fly over the Cabinet Office in central London. Photograph: Suzanne Plunkett/Reuters

The sentiment expressed by a psychologist (Letters, 10 September) was news to few pro-union Scots. We have always known, only too well, that Cameron gifted first the whole referendum process which a majority of Scots did not seek, secondly the wording on the ballot paper and thirdly refused to include “devo max”. This last option would, as some commentators have lately observed, have been a winner. Salmond could not believe his luck. From then on he has wallowed in the extended period up to his chosen election date spinning his tartan dream world, firing up people who may never before have voted with spurious promises of milk and heather honey. This is his “Diana” moment, where disconnected people grab a chance to live vicariously their own drama, a soap opera that involves emotional chaos just like on TV. And not a thought is spared for the cold, dark mornings of the long Scottish winter to come.

If the Scottish government has resolutely refused to use the devolved tax-raising powers it has long had, that now looks very much like cynical bribery, one of the many unanswered questions Salmond declines to address. As Peter Hetherington points out (Society, 10 September), £1bn is the sum the SNP could have spent on an infrastructure fund. Instead we have a referendum, costly in so many ways – not least in the divisiveness and hostility within Scotland and the overt antipathy shown to anything or anybody English. Mandela might have called it apartheid. In desperation and fear I have finally dared to stick a no poster in my window.
Carolyn Kirton

• I’m fed up hearing Mr Salmond promise voters that separation will solve all ills, with no mention of who’ll pay the bills. I’m sick of him attributing every problem to “Tories” and “Westminster” and “the English” – when his SNP has already controlled so much for so long.

But I also think Mr Darling’s indisputable economic arguments for a no thanks vote urgently need much more positive presentation. Sure, paint the vivid picture of numerous large employers finalising their plans for flitting south in the event of a yes vote. But simultaneously shout to the rooftops about the emotional “high” we all gain from Scotland being a leading nation within the UK! Heaven knows there’s a lot to be proud of.

Why else are immigrants bypassing countless countries to queue at Calais? Why else are the British parliament (warts and all), the British civil service, the BBC, the British military, the British NHS, the British Red Cross, British sport and arts, so globally admired? British farming methods are also renowned, and even “Made in Britain” is again becoming a proud boast.

Scots are deeply involved in all these very British things, with great affection, too, for our Queen and royal family – again, the subject of huge overseas envy – but who’d quickly be removed by President Salmond’s republican bedfellows. Scotland and the Scottish diaspora are intimately interwoven throughout the fabric of Britain, and we only have a few days left to convince the undecided that this is a cause for celebration and retention.
Graeme G Crawford

• In my heart I hope the Scottish people, including many of my relatives, vote no next week. However, I am puzzled that more people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland haven’t started to discuss the many benefits to them that might be realised from Scottish Independence.

For example, there will be many job opportunities, as the departments like DWP and National Savings will have to relocate. In the past these have been allocated to areas where there has been low employment due to the loss of industries. Surely many cities would benefit from having these additional workforce requirements? This is one example, I’m sure there are many others.

If we seriously want the Scottish people to reflect on what they might lose by becoming independent, it may be better to phrase the argument in terms of what the rest of the UK will gain. Sadly I suppose it’s a bit late for that now.
Jenny Page
Sidmouth, Devon

• Should Scotland vote to separate from the rest of Britain then all our lives will be diminished at every level: cultural, political and economic. It is not scaremongering to remind people that a win for Alex Salmond could plunge the whole of the United Kingdom into an economic crisis the following day. The sharks are circling: our hard-earned, steady economic recovery is threatened.

We are better together, but we should not remain together in the same way as we are today. There is a deep malaise in our current system of government. Far too much power has been centralised in Westminster. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are rightly demanding more political and economic control of their own futures. England, where 85% of British people actually live, has had no distinct voice on the constitutional changes that have taken place over the last five decades.

Local government has been emasculated year on year since Margaret Thatcher won in 1979 and there is a compelling argument for some form of regional government that empowers business, industry and local communities.

Voter turnout for all elections is so low that our democracy is undermined by non-participation. Perhaps the one thing we might be pleased about is that over 80% of eligible Scots are expected to vote in their referendum. We need a full constitutional convention. It is time to stop tinkering with our system of government. It is broken – let’s fix it.
Ian Jones
Chair, North East Liberal Democrats, Middlesbrough

• Let us be quite clear, if there is a yes vote it is for ever. There will be no chance for second thoughts. Antagonistic attitudes will harden as if every issue was like a football match between the two nations. Before we get to this point of no return, could we plead for the matter to be looked at in a longer-term perspective?

Let us reflect back say 200 years or so and forward say 25 years. If Scotland leaves the UK, it is most likely that the “little Englanders” goaded by the popular press will ensure that the rump of the UK leaves the EU. Even if Scotland is accepted into the EU, which is by no means guaranteed, it will have little chance of influencing the much-needed reforms of that institution compared with what a well-led UK government could do.

Over the last two centuries or so the UK has fought hard and made significant sacrifices to ensure that the continent of Europe is not dominated by one national group for the clear reason that it would most likely be to the detriment of ourselves. The reunification of Germany, coupled with the investment and determination of the German people to make it a success, followed by the formation of the euro using political rather than economic criteria, and then the banking crisis, has put Germany in a dominant economic position which looks like growing at the expense of France, Italy and the rest. Of course, Germany is a good democratic European at present but who is to say as it gets even stronger that this will always be its stance.

The UK’s “special relationship” with the Americans will die once we have no influence in the EU. That will, of course, mean that we will no longer have to help them in their unwise wars, but they will not intervene on our behalf. They will be busy coping (or not) with their own decline in world influence as China becomes the dominant economic power. Our trading relationships with the EU could well suffer and our bloated banks will most assuredly be sidelined. Yet nationalised French and German companies will be dominating our electricity supply. We will both be impotent to look after our joint interests.

So, dear Scottish friends and partners, please reflect on the tough times ahead for our children and grandchildren and help us all to hold our own.
Graham Cooper
Smethcott, Shropshire

• The yes campaign hype has succeeded – so far – in masking its own hypocrisy and conning the electorate in the process. Here are just three examples:

First, ridding Scotland of Trident while still hiding behind the nuclear skirts of Nato. Really? The SNP and the yes campaign have proclaimed that Nato has a number of non-nuclear states, yet hidden the fact that none of them eschew Nato’s nuclear umbrella, part of which happens to be based in the UK.

Second, disavowing new nuclear energy, yet tacitly supporting extending the lifetimes of Scotland’s existing nuclear power stations and, through Scottish Enterprise (the Scottish government’s economic development agency) encouraging Scottish industry to “tool up” to support the nuclear energy industry outwith Scotland.

And third, proclaiming the Scottish government’s avowed holier than thou foreign policy, yet happy to hawk the Clyde shipyards around the world as the place to build warships for foreign powers with whose foreign policies it disagrees.

On this, and on many other issues, the SNP/yes claims of the moral high ground are totally dishonest. Social justice and equality of opportunity are felt just as strongly throughout the UK. The SNP’s moral and social concerns seem to stop at the border.
Professor Paul W Jowitt

• Scotland is no more homogeneous than the rest of the UK. The Shetlands were effectively a wedding present to the Scottish king in 1469. Is it safe to assume, therefore, that, if the Shetlands vote no, the SNP would respect their decision not to be part of an independent Scotland (what would that do to their sums?). It is also notable that, despite the SNP’s negative rhetoric, the rest of the UK wants Scotland to stay – and no one else seems to care about the financial impact either way.

Nationalism is an ugly force, accentuating and exaggerating minor differences, creating and exploiting perceived grievances. It also creates simplistic, unrealistic solutions that will only be tested when it’s too late. The SNP’s unnecessary obsession with independence drowns out all else. It is a wonder drug, a panacea that solves everything. It gives rise to unrealistic expectations, not least in Alex Salmond’s attempt to treat the union as a pick ‘n’ mix where they can blackmail the rest into allowing them to choose unilaterally what they keep and what they reject. It is worth pointing out that, in the event of a yes vote, it would be the fiduciary duty of the rump UK government to negotiate the absolute best deal for the rest of the UK, and that means no favours for Scotland. The SNP will reap what they sow, but it is the ordinary citizen throughout the UK who will ultimately lose out. We will all be diminished.
Stewart Fergus

• The Scots have been warned that there will be no currency union and they will have to abandon the pound. It is deeply troubling that so many people seem willing to ignore the facts.

However a major reason for the growth of separatist feeling is the behaviour of the Tory and Ukip right wing. The Tory party lost Scotland several decades ago, and the growth between the largely social democratic Scots and the Thatcher brigade is massive. Nothing could be better calculated to remind the Scots of what they loathe about the English Tories than Douglas Carswell’s idiotic decision to trigger a byelection, in the run up to the referendum.

Carswell is not the only one to undermine David Cameron and his attempts to hold the UK together. Boris Johnson is making it very obvious that he wants Cameron’s job and is prepared to play the anti-European card. As the Tory party is going to be divided and dominated by its right wing, and in government, for the foreseeable future, is it any wonder the Scots may think, wrongly, that separatism is for them? But they are at least conscious about wanting to destroy the UK. Do the Tory right even grasp that by boosting Ukip they are helping destroy the union they claim to support?
Trevor Fisher

• As a Scot living in England, I am sad, ashamed and angry at the level of support for the yes campaign. Sad when I think of the great Scots of the past like Andrew Carnegie, John Buchan and David Livingstone: principled, selfless and courageous – are these characteristics shared by Alex Salmond? Ashamed when I think how Scots’ emotions, especially Anglophobia, are being cynically manipulated by a rabble-rouser, supported by a spin doctor. Ashamed too at the bullying tactics and cheap jibes of the yes campaign and the resulting lasting damage to relationships between Scots. Angry because in the event of a yes vote my daughter and son-in-law will probably have to uproot their family to find work elsewhere, as they stand to lose their jobs in a national bank and an international energy company respectively. Such huge employers plan to leave Scotland because of certain financial chaos and because most of their business comes from elsewhere. Wake up: it’s not Westminster making fools of you, but a coterie of Scots hungry for power but irresponsibly clueless on policies.
Frances Edge
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

• There are three things about the yes campaign that have convinced me to remain a no vote: their rose-tinted speculation, their insistence that everything will remain the same when it will not, and the arrogance of the SNP leaders of the campaign.

The first two of these reasons were well illustrated during a television debate when the question of science research funding came up and it was stated that Cancer Research UK would continue to fund its research in an independent Scotland. CR UK does not fund any research outside the UK, but no one commented on the possibility that in the future this rule may be applied to Scotland if donors in the rest of the UK do not want their donations going to a foreign country, which is what Scotland will be. Having worked in academia I know how easy it is to move research groups; they will just follow the money out of Scotland.

The question of oil revenue has been hotly debated, but the main thrust of the yes campaign is that Scotland would get the majority of the tax revenue assuming the division of the North Sea between the UK and Scotland will lie on a line running due east from Berwick. However I believe that under international law the UK could claim that the boundary between the Scottish and UK parts of the North Sea should follow approximately the direction of the land border between the countries, giving Scotland the area north of a line from Berwick to roughly Bergen. This puts more production platforms in the UK area than the yes campaign have counted on. Also, Norway may insist on negotiating to increase its oil production zone as the original division was between Norway and the UK, not Norway and Scotland.

As for other things remaining the same, the yes campaign has remained silent over the domestic changes that will take place, for example: any product or special personal financial arrangement made by the UK Treasury will cease. Do you have Premium Bonds? They will be worthless but the UK Treasury will no doubt repay you their face value. Do you have any deposits in UK National Savings? These accounts will be frozen. Do you have an Isa? It will also be frozen.

Has anyone in the yes camp said anything about car insurance? If Scotland becomes independent in March 2016 the law governing car insurance will become Scottish law. UK insurance companies will not insure drivers resident outside the UK, so to renew car insurance for a year after March 2015 two insurance contracts may be needed with all the extra expense that will no doubt bring. Of course if you then drive into the UK after March 2016 you will only be insured as a foreign driver, and what is to happen about drivers who are Scots-based but spend most of their time driving for work in the UK?

As for arrogance, has anyone ever heard any SNP leader ever concede that any criticism of the yes campaign may be worth considering? To me Salmond, Sturgeon and Swinney are taking on the mantle of the old high Tory elite, putting the SNP up as the party with the manifest destiny to run Scotland. They are supporting the yes campaign with promises (increased state pension, reduction in corporation tax, increased agricultural subsidies) that they can only fulfil if they win both the yes vote and the 2016 election. Make no mistake, the yes campaigners outside the SNP have been hoodwinked into thinking they are doing the best for Scotland, but all they are doing is giving the SNP the right to split the UK and have the glittering prize of their own country to run.

Finally a question that I have never had answered by a yes campaigner: if Scotland is so well run, why does the yes campaign want to remove from the Scottish people any influence that it may have in the rest of the UK?
Dr Stuart McGlashan
Newton Stewart, Dumfries and Galloway


Rosie Millard is rightly concerned about the electoral implications of the proposed “mansion tax” in London and the South-east (8 September). It would create an arbitrary threshold at which yet another tax, just like that on inheritances, is suddenly imposed at a high rate.

Instead, we need a complete revamp of the existing system of council tax, under which the owner of a £100m mansion in London currently pays only twice as much as the tenant of a flat in Middlesbrough.

Rather than clumsy “bands”, why not follow Sweden, which has a flat-rate annual tax of around 0.7% of each property’s value? Soaring property prices work against tenants and favour owners. This suggests that council tax should be paid by landlords.

It is contradictory for homes to be subjected to council tax by local authorities, while central government exempts principal private residences from unlimited amounts of capital gains tax. Why does the government use such reliefs to encourage people to put their money into ever-more lavish homes when they would surely be much better encouraged to invest in initiatives which create jobs and enhance the environment?

Aidan Harrison 

Rothbury, Northumberland


I find it difficult to believe that the taxpayers of London are quite as selfish as Rosie Millard asserts. Surely those who, through no effort or skill of their own, have accumulated property worth 10 times the average UK house price would have no objection to making more contribution to the exchequer than the current absurdly generous council tax allows? In a time when homelessness is widespread, surely exceptionally fortunate Londoners are more public-spirited than that?

Michael Godwin


The real case against the so-called mansion tax is that any change in the taxation of private houses should be to update the council tax.

At present council tax is levied on houses being placed in one of a number of bands but the highest is £350,000 and over. The bands were calculated in 1991. This is equivalent to about £850,000 today. So the owner of a house valued at £900,000 pays the same tax as a Russian billionaire owning a mega-mansion costing £60m or more.

Not even the most bare-faced plutocrat can claim this is fair. What is obviously needed is to introduce more bands above the present top one. The popular myth that this will automatically lead to higher council tax for everybody needs to be exploded.

Because governments of all parties tend to put a cap on local authorities’ spending, they would not be able to increase it. The income would however be differently raised. A larger share would come from more put into the new band (which would need only a revaluation of those now in band H – less than 3.5 per cent of the country’s 28m houses).

In fact everybody now in bands A to G would enjoy a reduction in their council-tax bill – surely an attraction to the politicians?

Harvey Cole

Winchester, Hampshire


Scots vote may be a boon for democracy

This referendum has been the greatest driver for many years in getting citizens actively involved in the political process and enabling them to express what kind of values they want politics to represent. It has also revealed the strength of feeling of many in England, too, that their interests are disregarded  in Westminster.

When the dust settles, there may well be a greater debate about how we can make Westminster more accountable to, and representative of, the wider population. For the first time in many years the political establishment may be sufficiently shaken out of its self-serving torpor to actually look beyond the Westminster bubble and listen to the voices they’ve been able to ignore for so long. We may all gain yet, regardless of what happens on 18 September.

Steve Porter


By the time the consequences of destroying one of the oldest and most successful political unions become clear I suspect Alex Salmond will be long gone to the lucrative lecture circuit.

Having bet the future of the UK on the voting whims of some thrawn Celts, David Cameron will also be gone, as will Ed Miliband for losing control of Scottish Labour supporters. Their successors, put in place by a now furious English electorate, will be in no mood to do us any favours and we are likely to end up in the enervating embrace of the IMF.

Too late we will realise we have voted for an impoverished statelet facing public-service cuts, endemic unemployment, raised taxes and the flight of both youth and capital.

Dr John Cameron

St Andrews

Yes, the Scots will go, and beyond doubt, the major responsibility lies with the governing elite. The Scots are inclined to be socialist in attitude, closer to the egalitarian and republican outlook characteristic of Europe than to the hideously class-riven society that exists south of the border.

Like the rest of us, they have suffered from the unrestrained capitalism of the past 30 years which has left ordinary people paying ever-increasing bills to private companies for the ordinary services of life.

By voting Yes they will free themselves of the cabal of public-school spivs that governs these islands. God help the rest of us.

Keith Purbrick

Canterbury, Kent

It now looks as though neither side can win a convincing victory in the Scottish independence referendum. What this illustrates is the gross inadequacy of our form of democracy. It is quite understandable that the Scottish electorate feels unrepresented by the “Coalition” – in fact essentially Tory – Government, because so do millions of the rest of us. It is surely time to end the system by which a party with a third of the popular vote feels empowered to inflict its nutty agenda on the rest of us, for example in education, the NHS and the bedroom tax.

The Scots are in a unique position to deliver bloody noses to these vain, strutting peacocks. There can be little doubt that the loss of Scotland to the UK would be remembered as the only lasting legacy of the “Coalition”.

Gavin P Vinson

London N10

We need each other within the UK and are stronger for it – on defence, trade and multinational organisations. Divided we would lose our voice on the UN Security Council – perhaps to India, Brazil or South Africa – and Nato could no longer rely upon a common UK foreign-policy position.

Meanwhile, across Europe independence movements and Russian geopolitical strategists take heart at the success of the Yes campaign. As Russia sows the seeds of division and chaos by encouraging separatist groups, it knows Britain will be weaker if divided from within.

The idea of a divorce between countries with a shared history of culture, language and religion sends shivers down the spines of those who champion harmony across Europe. Alarm bells are ringing at the prospect of Scottish independence heralding the atomisation of Europe.

The future is uncertain and potentially dangerous so the question of whether we face it together or apart extends beyond the shores of Britain to a Europe whose security has been built upon unity.

Geraint Davies MP (Swansea West) & Member of the Council for Europe

London SW1

The sight of all three Westminster party leaders arriving in Scotland in a blind panic is reminiscent of a group of leaders from a totalitarian state attempting to stop one of its outlying regions from breaking away.

Surely if the Scottish economy were such a liability they would be happy to see it go? Why, then, do they constantly talk it down and suggest that an independent Scotland would be bound to fail?

Dr Dominic Horne

University of Worcester


If the Yes vote wins, will it be written, correctly, that Scotland was lost on the playing fields of Eton.

Malcolm Calvert

Anglesey, North Wales


University educated, but unemployable

The OECD’s report on numeracy and literacy levels in the UK reveals a worrying gap between skills and qualifications (report, 10 September). To counteract this, school-leavers need to think carefully about whether the degrees they are about to start will enable them to get the skills businesses actually need.

Employers tell us that apprentices are often better placed to meet the needs of business than those with other qualifications. Young people who enter into apprenticeship programmes benefit by gaining technical qualifications while learning the skills necessary to succeed at work. However, they are often unaware that these options exist.

Recent YouGov research reveals that nearly two-thirds of 18-24-year-olds have not had advice at secondary school or college on paid apprenticeships.

Jackie Bedford, Chief Executive, Step Ahead

London EC1

I was interested to see your article (10 September) headed “University education boom fails to improve numeracy and literacy”. This would seem to be borne out by your health briefing, two pages earlier: “2bn: number of Britons who will suffer from Alzheimer’s by 2050”.

Roger Smith


The independence referendum debate has brought latent constitutional issues into sharp focus

Sir, As it appears from public comments by the Cabinet Secretary that civil servants are under instructions to make no contingency plans for a “yes” vote next week, I assume there has been no planning for the relationship, and share of resources, between a separate Scotland and both the British (United Kingdom) Diplomatic Service and the British Council.

As a former head of the Diplomatic Service, I should like to record the considerable contribution that the Diplomatic Service and the British Council make to Scottish interests at home and abroad. Scotland inward investments interests, export promotion and Scotland’s cultural and education profile form an important part of the work of both services. In particular, I commend the remarkable efforts by our embassy in Tokyo on behalf of the Scotch Whisky Association.

Whatever arrangements are made for Scotland’s future relationship with either service, I wonder whether an independent Scotland could reasonably expect the same commitment and effort from our diplomats in future.

Lord Wright of Richmond

House of Lords

Sir, Buckingham Palace put its finger on a key factor in the referendum (report, Sept 10). The statement that the choice is one for “the people of Scotland” surely casts harsh light on the composition of the current franchise. People have always been one of Scotland’s greatest exports. Whether sent unwillingly across the seas as a result of clearances, or in foreign lands by choice in search of adventure, fame or fortune, Scots have thrived and created vibrant communities and the very fabric of empires both commercial and political. Wherever they may reside, they see themselves as Scots.

Yet we have no vote. We watch powerless as our nation is torn asunder — knowing that our views will neither be sought nor reflected in this utterly misguided exercise.

Alastair Singleton

Chewton Keynsham, Bristol

Sir, The saltire and its colours are the emotive and endearing symbols of Scottish nationalism, and clearly demonstrate support for the “yes” campaign. Dan Snow’s bizarre suggestion (Sept 10) that flying the saltire will perhaps show support for the “no” vote simply demonstrates the total disarray and desperation of the Better Together campaign.

Peter Froggatt

Dorking, Surrey

Sir, As John Major describes (Sept 10), Scottish independence would not only substantially weaken the UK but result in major financial problems for an independent Scotland. The irony is that it would be those who are reportedly most likely to swing the vote to independence, based on Alex Salmond’s misleading rhetoric, who would suffer most: working-class Labour voters and the poor.

PA Macnab


Sir, John Major appears to have drawn the short straw in who might be wheeled out to hastily shift blame for the debacle over Scotland. Let us be clear that this impending tragedy can be laid fairly and squarely at Mr Cameron’s front door. Not only did he dismiss devo-max options out of hand, he also agreed the date, a simple majority format and the unconstitutional “suggestion” that 16-year-olds be allowed to vote.

Ian Hoyle

Sir, John Major says that the strengthening of the movement for Scottish independence is the fault of the last Labour government. A more plausible cause was the the Local Government Finance Act of 1988. This unleashed the poll tax on the UK, starting with Scotland one year ahead of England and Wales. The Conservative government’s blindness towards the perceived unfairness of both the tax and the order of its implementation galvanised Scottish nationalism then — and continues to do so today.

Ian Ward

Westbury-sub-Mendip, Somerset

Sir, I was born, raised and educated in Scotland. As soon as I graduated, I left to pursue career opportunities in London. I have been here, in England, my home, for 35 years. But Scotland has changed much during those 35 years. On my frequent visits to Glasgow and Edinburgh, I am taken aback by how far Scotland has lurched to the left and how many of its leaders embrace socialism. I am saddened by their obsession with state control, trade unions, workers’ rights and public sector pay.

This is not the Scotland of my youth. It has become embittered, and the Labour party in Scotland has done a sterling job of making the Conservative party a symbol of evil. Ideologically, Scotland and the rest of the UK are miles apart. Scotland has rejected centrist and right-of-centre policies for nearly four decades and its alienation from Westminster should not come as a surprise. For that reason, and that reason alone, Scotland should vote “yes”.

Alan Templeton

Northend, Berks

Sir, The narrowing of the polls has led to a cascade of promises from the unionist political parties. Whatever the result of the vote, we need to decide where power in this country (or countries) should lie. It is time for a UK-wide constitutional convention, on the lines of recent conventions in Ireland and Iceland, that gives citizens a say in shaping the future. Such a process needs the support of all the political parties, but it must retain its independence from them. Above all, a UK constitutional convention must build on the passion ignited in Scotland by the referendum, and bring that desire for determining our political future to the rest of the UK.

Katie Ghose, Electoral Reform Society; Vernon Bogdanor, King’s College London; Graham Allen MP, chairman, Political and Constitutional Reform Committee Plus a further 16 signatories at

Sir, If Scotland votes for independence, the impact on the rest of the UK will be profound despite the fact that the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland have had no say in the matter. To ensure that we are not sold short, the terms eventually negotiated between the Scottish and UK governments must be put to a binding referendum of those of us who will remain in the UK.

Michael Patterson

Swineshead, Lincs

Many teachers think interactive whiteboards are a gimmick and a waste of educational finance

Sir, As a recently retired teacher, I find the claim that the use of “interactive whiteboards” has improved exam results by one grade intriguing (report, Sept 8). Just because students can skilfully find their way around interactive whiteboards does not necessarily mean that they are increasing their learning. Many students I taught were brilliant at using technology but lacked critical analysis, knowledge or understanding. Many teachers think that interactive whiteboards are a gimmick; the educational rewards certainly do not justify the enormous expense laid out for them, especially when most young people are computer savvy anyway.

Leo McCormack

Sedgefield, Co Durham


Jane MacQuitty’s rebuttal of various wine myths was welcome — with one exception…

Sir, Jane MacQuitty’s dismissal of a number of wine myths (Sept 6) came as a pleasant taste to the palate. I would, though, question her plea to ignore the practice of letting wine breathe. It depends on the wine. A good Burgundy may often be drunk immediately after opening, but many ordinary, higher-volume wines from the new world improve remarkably after an hour in a decanter. She is right that wine starts to oxidise at once after opening, but this process initially creates the organic esters that please the nostrils so much. The deterioration comes later, when the half-empty bottle has been left overnight.

Dr AG Holton

Lockerley, Hants

The ortolan bunting deserves to be saved from the clutches of France’s finest chefs

Sir, Four of France’s finest chefs want the ban on hunting ortolan buntings to be suspended (Sept 10). They fear that the recipe for these birds — which are said to have inspired the first notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony — may be lost. Is there a happy chance that it may never be found?

Juanita Fenton

Ilkley, W Yorks

If we can’t get land use policy right in the UK, what chance for Sir Jonathon Porritt’s ‘very poor countries’?

Sir, Sir Jonathon Porritt (letter, Sept 9, and report, Sept 4) might reflect that forestry, like charity, begins at home, and consider the results of his previous campaign, to “save” our own state forests from privatisation. We have had nearly three years of reports, meetings, delays and obfuscations from Defra, which is now preparing to hand over its “recommendations” to a new government, after next year’s election.

If we can’t get forest and land use policy right in England, what chance for his “very poor countries”?

David WG Taylor

(Past president, Institute of Chartered Foresters) Rodley, Glos


Mega-city: compact cities like Hong Kong tend to use much less energy per capita compared to sprawling cities Photo: AP

6:58AM BST 10 Sep 2014


SIR – Allister Heath is right to recognise the challenges posed by rapid urbanisation, including getting the infrastructure right.

One essential consideration is the impact on energy use and carbon emissions. Compact cities like Hong Kong tend to use much less energy per capita than more sprawling ones like Los Angeles – not least because of shorter distances between homes and workplaces and better access to public transport.

Other ways to make our cities more energy efficient include better integration of water, waste, sewage and power systems; switching from coal to natural gas-fired power stations; and expanding the range of cleaner fuels for vehicles.

Cities are, and will continue to be, a defining feature of our civilisation. Making sure we get city design right is one of the most important tasks we face.

Jeremy Bentham
Head of Scenarios, Shell
The Hague, The Netherlands

Arming the Kurds

SIR – Nato should take heed of the law of unintended consequences when considering whether to support and arm the Kurds further in their battle with Isil.

Those with a knowledge of the area will recall that for many years Turkey fought an insurrection in the south of the country, and that it has long been a Kurdish ambition to create a national state embracing the Kurdish areas of Syria, Iraq and Turkey.

Such a landlocked country would control the headwaters of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, together with several major oil producing areas, creating unacceptable economic and strategic threats to the current sovereign areas.

Where would the West stand on the subsequent political upheaval?

Col Peter Mitchell (retd)
Odiham, Hampshire

Talking greens

SIR – Am I alone in being weary of food manufacturers anthropomorphising their products?

Today I bought a bag of fresh greens from Tesco. The instructions on the bag were: “Please keep me in the fridge.”

I don’t want a relationship with a bunch of greens – it’s bad enough being told I’ve got to eat them.

Ruth Morgan
Horsham, West Sussex

More expensive police

SIR – If the president of the Superintendents’ Association believes amalgamating police forces will make savings, she is badly mistaken. Large organisations are always more expensive to operate.

Amalgamating police forces in Scotland resulted in additional costs totalling hundreds of millions of pounds – the opposite of what was promised – and the same would apply to any amalgamations in England and Wales.

Paul Hornby

Ranking pupils

SIR – The next Conservative manifesto could include a promise to force schools to set pupils by ability. This is obviously a good thing and the fact that the Association of Teachers and Lecturers is against it gives it extra weight.

Unfortunately, this continues the practice of gauging a school’s performance on how well it does the things Ofsted thinks will make it a better school. What we need is an objective measure of performance.

A repeated IQ test for all pupils throughout their school careers would allow us to compare actual results with reasonably expected results and provide a good objective measure of the value added by individual teachers as well as schools.

Kenneth Hynes
London N7

Fair game

SIR – Major-General Dare Wilson, who kept a 12-bore shotgun with him throughout the Second World War, was not the only soldier to refuse to forego game shooting during the hostilities.

While serving with the 1st Armoured Coldstream Guards on September 1 1944 the late, great Major Nico Collin was passing a field of kale near Arras in France. Remembering that it was beginning of partridge shooting season, he offered a pound to anyone who downed one.

As a covey got up 200 yards ahead of him he blazed away with a light machine gun fixed to the turret of his Sherman. His disappointment at missing them was more than compensated when two German soldiers arose from the kale with their hands raised in surrender.

They were recorded in the “Various” column of his game book.

Michael Cleary
Bulmer, North Yorkshire

Cameron’s CCF cuts will damage state schools

SIR – Independent school heads are concerned that funding cuts jeopardise the future of their CCF contingents (report, September 6).

Given that the Prime Minister’s Cadet Expansion Programme aims to establish 100 new cadet units in state schools, readers may be more surprised to know that the funding cuts apply equally to existing CCF units in state schools.

My state school is celebrating the centenary of our Combined Cadet Force, which is currently thriving. Over the next four years the MoD plans to withdraw our contingent grant; adult volunteers will no longer be remunerated; and each cadet will be charged £150 per year.

These changes will lead to a contraction of state school CCF contingents – the opposite effect to that intended by the Prime Minister.

Chris Pyle
Headmaster, Lancaster Royal Grammar School

SIR – State schools are uniquely dependent on the direct grant to fund their CCF units, having no money in school foundations or from school fees. The CCF offers a tremendous opportunity for pupils, regardless of background or wealth, which is likely to disappear if the MoD’s proposals to charge cadets and schools for running a CCF are put into practice.

State school contingents are also heavily dependent on non-teaching volunteers who take time off work to help run CCF activities and undertake extensive personal training in order to be competent. By withdrawing funding to existing programmes, the MoD’s proposals may force them to resign from their positions. Their equivalents in the Army Cadet Force and Air Training Corps face no such threat – a clear and unjust disparity.

Wg Cdr David Hobbs RAFVR(T)
Contingent Commander, Sutton Grammar School CCF
Sutton, Surrey

Jack the Ripper, from Le Petit Parisien, 1891, engraving with later colouration Photo: BRIDGEMAN ART LIBRARY

6:59AM BST 10 Sep 2014


SIR – On the basis of DNA analysis, Russell Edwards claims that Aaron Kosminski was “definitely, categorically and absolutely” Jack the Ripper.

The detective in charge of the case, my great-grandfather Donald Swanson, named the perpetrator as just “Kosminski”, a fact first revealed in your columns in 1987.

Nevill Swanson

SIR – As Catherine Eddowes was described as a “casual prostitute”, can the intimate DNA samples linked to Aaron Kosminski, found on her shawl be taken as definitive proof of him being Jack the Ripper, or was he a recent client?

I’d be surprised if this would stand up in court today.

Arthur Bayley
Tyldesley, Lancashire

Exports: independence could have a significantly negative effect on businesses based in Scotland Photo: Alamy

7:00AM BST 10 Sep 2014


SIR – Independence would be damaging to the Scottish-owned, independent Scotch whisky company of which I am finance director. We are wholly based in Scotland so, unlike our globally based competitors, will face the full impact of the ensuing changes and associated risks.

The prospect of higher interest rates

will curb our ability to fund stock and therefore reduce growth or force us to contract.

Will we be able to trade as a member of the EU, and what will our currency be? If it is to be the euro, how will we progress to meet the accession criteria?

The presence of greater currency risks will affect our margins, which are reasonably protected at the moment, as nearly all of our export sales are in sterling.

Our global representation will be diminished as few Scottish trade missions will be established, and they will take time to become credible.

It is startling that independence could affect an independent Scottish export business more adversely than others. I am concerned that these risks will only be appreciated when it is far too late.

Mike Younger
Ian Macleod Distillers
Broxburn, West Lothian

SIR – The consequences of a Yes vote would be dire for Scotland, and I believe that the SNP’s economic promises amount to little more than fool’s gold.

However, money is not the sole reason for keeping the Union. Together we have achieved great things in the world and the Scottish contribution has been very significant. Whether on the battlefield confronting fascism or in the fields of engineering, medicine, science, sport or politics, Scottish representatives have been up there with the best.

I find it hard to believe that the Scottish people would want to retreat from an international front-row seat for their representatives to a place with little influence in the world.

For those of us in Northern Ireland, the people of Scotland are our kith and kin, and the thought of them leaving us is very sad indeed. The main parties in Parliament must set out a clear vision of what all of us in the Union can do together to expand our economies, improve standards of education and redraw our constitutional future.

Lord Empey
Chairman, Ulster Unionist Party
London SW1

SIR – What clearer message that your cause is lost could you give than to wheel out as your spokesman the most embarrassingly inept prime minister in living memory?

Clive Boddington
Armathwaite, Cumberland

SIR – Presumably, if Scotland becomes independent, the Royal Mail will no longer be able to justify the cost of postage within the UK by citing the excessive costs of providing a daily delivery service to remote Scottish dwellings, and therefore the cost of sending letters within England and Wales will go down and European rates will apply to letters to Scotland.

Doubtless the BBC, Met Office and Forestry Commission, to name but three, would also have to downsize substantially, with resultant large savings to the new United Kingdom.

John Mellows
Kilmington, Devon

SIR – Having lived through a period during which two Scottish prime ministers, aided by two Scottish chancellors, steered the UK into a financial downturn in which two Scottish banks needed to be bailed out by British taxpayers, I regard the prospect of Scottish independence with equanimity tinged with relief.

John Gordon
Kingsbridge, Devon

SIR – To appease the Scots, should the next royal baby be christened Bonnie Prince Charlie?

Roger Briers
Fitz, Shropshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – If the people of Scotland vote Yes to independence but the majority of the people in the northeast, say the Grampian district, vote No, would those unionists be entitled to partition the country?

If they did not want to be called Scottish they could call themselves Northern Scottish or Grampians. – Yours, etc,



Co Clare.

Sir, – Your editorial “Scotland’s Moment” disappoints me. You imagine Ireland in the personage of our Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan telling Scotland with confidence that we’ve “been there, done that”. You make the troubled course of Ireland’s independence seem like a jaunt on a luxury coach to the Palace of Versailles. Such grandiosity, sir, needs to be challenged.

We have paid a very high price for our independence and the burden of that price has been disproportionately borne by the ordinary people of Ireland.

Scottish independence, rather like Irish independence, will be a marvellous boon for those who are well heeled and middle class.

As for the rest, they will have to make themselves familiar with the street plans of London, Manchester and Birmingham. – Yours, etc,


Buckingham Road,


Sir, – Your edition of September 9th presented an interesting divergence of opinion on Scotland’s forthcoming referendum. In your editorial “Scotland’s moment” you conclude, “Scotland’s desire to forge its own direction should be supported”. While in your Business section Paul Krugman (“Why Scotland should think hard about going it alone”) succinctly points out the huge risks of an independent Scotland using England’s pound sterling.

Surely, Mr Krugman’s case is correct, because the Scottish economy would remain totally controlled by the interest rates set by the Bank of England, and there could be times when the two economies would be heading in completely different directions.

We have only got to cast our minds back a few years when the rates set by the ECB did not suit Ireland’s economy.

Scotland’s economy is tightly integrated with the rest of Britain’s, which would seem to suggest a new government in Edinburgh would have little room to manoeuvre, and little chance of Mr Salmond delivering the goodies he is promising in return for a Yes vote. – Yours, etc,


Ardagh Close,


Co Dublin.

A chara, – After spending some time recently in the UK, I’ve just returned to read the editorial “Scotland’s moment”. The difference between the treatment of the debate about independence for Scotland in the majority of the newspapers in the UK and your commentary is glaring. The calm, considered, informed and balanced tones of The Irish Times contrast with the one-sided, strident disparagement meted out by the UK press to the Yes side. – Is mise,


An Spidéal,

Co na Gaillimhe.

Sir, – One week to go and the outcome is in the balance.

I am nearly 70 and I notice that most of the older age-group is firmly in the No camp. Why is this? Is it only because they selfishly fear for their pensions and savings, as some Yes people have dismissively claimed?

Or could it be that they can transcend such considerations, have travelled a bit, and understand better the importance of good relationships among this family of nations?

Could it be that those in the older generation have a better sense of how unstable our modern world is, economically and politically, and how the union, for all its inadequacies, has served people well? – Yours, etc,


Ardmore Road,


Co Down.

A chara, – I cannot agree entirely with Susan Fitzgerald (September 5th) that “in every area of public service run by the State there are calls for regular and thorough systems of regulation” and that, therefore, Monica O’Connor was wrong to refuse to submit to such regulation regarding home schooling.

Article 42 of Bunreacht na hÉireann safeguards the right of parents to choose a school with an ethos they support, or alternatively to home school. The latter, far from being a public service provided by the State, is precisely a method of education outside State direction. Not all parents are happy with State education, or else simply believe that home schooling is a better alternative for their own children. Consider the tiny number of people who actually write the syllabus which is imposed on all State schoolchildren – it is in the dozens, for a nation of millions.

The family is the basic unit of society and of civilisation, and parents are the natural and primary educators of their children. The school – and the State – exists to support and protect the family, not the other way round.

What if parents do not agree with the criteria by which their children are to be “inspected” by the State? Home schooling groups made these points in the debate leading up to the Education (Welfare) Act 2000. The initial draft of this legislation had effectively equated home schooling with truancy. Some of our ideas were incorporated. We were willing to have our children present a portfolio of work at a neutral location, or present for State exams as external candidates, but objected to the intrusion of inspectors into private homes.

The question remains, who is the ultimate boss of our children – the parents or the State? There will always be “hard cases” that can be dealt with on an individual basis; but the basic fact remains – you cannot have two bosses. – Is mise,



BSc, Dip Ed,

Sallybrook House,

Glanmire, Co Cork.

Sir, – In his reference to Kenmare, Frank McDonald has got the wrong end of the stick (“Time to let go of the hanging baskets”, September 8th). Today I counted eight hanging baskets in Kenmare. Yes, we do have a profusion of flowers, but they are in window boxes, and they do not obscure any of our wonderful architecture. I have seen many overseas visitors in our town, over the last 25 years, who stop, wonder at and photograph our most colourful displays. I can see them back home sharing the beauty of Kenmare with their friends and relations.

Kenmare is a living place, a place we are very proud of. Having lived, over the years, in over 20 counties in Ireland, I have found nowhere more beautiful or fulfilling than Kenmare.

Come back soon, Frank, and see for yourself ! – Yours, etc,


Lodge Wood,

Kenmare, Co Kerry.

Sir, – Frank McDonald in the early 1980s accepted an invitation to visit our, then, rather dull and dirty town, Kinsale. He told us that it was up to us to care for our environment. He was inspiring. He got us going.

He was right – painting, planting and caring for our plants unites our community. Kinsale is now alive, well loved and lived in. Our planted environment is evidence of individual involvement. We in southwest Cork enjoy our hanging baskets.

Times change. I live over the shop in a Victorian house and feel much better since I got rid of the aspidistra and planted geraniums. – Yours, etc,


Barrys’s Place,

Kinsale, Co Cork.

Sir, – I am a native of Leitrim who moved to the US since in 1960. I read The Irish Times almost every day. I got a really good laugh from Frank McDonald’s tirade against hanging flower baskets. I am amazed that someone had the courage and the time to disparage such an innocuous practice with such venom, but it was very refreshing. But please tell him to lighten up. – Yours, etc,



New Jersey.

Sir, – Hanging baskets are a modern phenomenon, so how could Frank McDonald see them in photos from the Victorian era, as if that would authenticate their use?

There are a lot of ugly buildings out there that are redeemed by the use of baskets. Victoriana had its fair share of bad taste, including aspidistras. It was not a golden age of good taste but it was remarkable for its pomposity. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

A chara, – Dr Ronan McCrea’s response (“Muslim pupils should not be deprived of the cultural resources to take a full part in Irish society”, Opinion & Analysis, September 10th) to Dr Ali Selim’s call for a “revolution” in the Irish educational system to combat “discrimination” against Muslims (“Call for State schools to accommodate Islamic beliefs”, September 3rd) seems to have missed the update that the vast majority of Muslim parents in Ireland do not regard the system as discriminatory at all (“Irish Muslim organisations praise schools system”, September 10th).

But then again, as Dr McCrea’s article makes clear, this particular controversy has nothing to do with discrimination. It has to do with dismantling our school system and replacing it with one designed to promote a particular worldview. This is made clear in his statement that “parents do not have the right to prevent their child from encountering anything with which they may disagree while using the State education system”.

It is apparently now intolerable that schools should foster the values or beliefs of parents, or even be a safe haven for children from the wider culture’s constant barrage of ideas and values which parents may reject and wish to protect their children from, or at least wait until what they think is the appropriate time to introduce their children to them; the wise and benevolent state must protect children from their parents and schools must “brainwash or propagandise” their students solely in the cause of secularism.

All this flies in the face of our constitutional recognition of the fact that it is parents, not the state, who are the primary educators of their children. The mask is slipping. Those who think faith is nonsense and that religion has nothing to offer see our schools as the best place to promote their own ideological “revolution”. And every opportunity must be taken to promote that agenda; even if those “opportunities” turn out to be media-driven non-events. – Is mise,



Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – Rob Sadlier (September 9th) declares it a”fallacy” to state that we might not have ended up with a bankrupt country if women were represented in the Dáil at nearer their 50 per cent proportion in the electorate .

It can be argued that women are more vulnerable in situations of societal upheaval, insecurity and chaos and that renders them less reckless decision-makers. We could have done with less reckless decision-makers during the boom. Indeed it is perfectly reasonable to argue that if we had more of them we might have avoided the highs of the Celtic Tiger and the lows of the post Celtic Tiger bust. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,

Sutton, Dublin 13.

Sir, – Dr Colette Finn (September 9th) states that “women are by far the biggest group under-represented in Irish politics”. One crucial fact here is that, since the foundation of the State, no one has been excluded from standing as a Dáil candidate because of their gender.

Also, while it is true that the main political parties have been, and continue to be, mainly male, one does not require, and never has required, the nomination of a political party to stand for election.

As Dr Finn is obviously dissatisfied with the performance of the political parties in respect of nominating female candidates, let her and her 5050 Group organise the nomination of independent female candidates to contest every Dáil seat at the next general election. If nothing else, this would provide an opportunity to see what importance the electorate as a whole attaches to the gender of Dáil candidates, as distinct from the importance attached to this by Dr Finn and her colleagues in the 5050 Group. – Yours, etc,




Co Meath.

Sir, – To read that the planned expansion of cancer treatment facilities at St James’s Hospital in Dublin has now been deferred because of the construction of the National Children’s Hospital was enough to send me into orbit, crutches and all (“Expansion of cancer facilities at St James’s Hospital deferred”, September 6th).

What is it about this Government’s propensity to try to squeeze health facilities into small spaces? There simply isn’t enough room at St James’s to fit a children’s hospital, an adult hospital, a maternity hospital and expanded cancer facilities. I can only hope that the Fota Island think-in gives our political masters the time and space they need to revisit the location of the children’s hospital at St James’s and to reopen the file on Blanchardstown, which would give everyone enough room to breathe and expand.

While they’re at it, they should also establish a new government department – a “Department of Common Sense”.– Yours, etc,


Johnstown Manor,


Naas, Co Kildare.

Sir, – The recent upheaval in council chambers over the determination of the chief executives of the four Dublin local authorities to proceed with the Poolbeg incinerator highlights yet again the excessive powers of their offices over those elected by the citizens of Dublin city and county.

It was former minister for the environment Noel Dempsey who amended the 1996 Waste Management Act to vest decision-making powers in the county managers (chief executives) rather than elected representative. In the context of the ongoing debate about an elected mayor for Dublin, it is time this Government reversed Mr Dempsey’s decision in favour of councillors, who are democratically elected and accountable to the citizens. – Yours, etc,


County Hall,

Dún Laoghaire.

Sir, – Fintan O’Toole (“Turning our dead taoisigh into great leaders”, Opinion & Analysis, 9th) may be missing the point that speaking well of the dead, even our taoisigh, may just about rectify the inevitable torrent of abuse most receive during the course of their political lives. As he stated, “death is one of the things we do well in Ireland”; but is it not this fact of celebrating the life of a recently departed relative or friend that is at the heart of Christian burial? – Yours, etc,


Ballyroan Park,


Sir, – In his letter on Mary Feely’s article criticising school uniforms, David Marlborough (September 10th) talks of “steering children towards some degree of professional attire”, conveniently forgetting that this country was brought to its knees by bankers and politicians who “appreciate how a nice elegant tie sets off a neat suit”.

I would prefer to be led by honest people whose primary concern was not conforming to an outmoded dress code. – Yours, etc,


Kilcolman Court,

Glenageary, Co Dublin.

Sir, – Further to Aonghus Dwane’s Rite & Reason article of September 2nd (“Retired Church of Ireland archbishop led his community to places they had not been”), and just to keep the record straight, the first woman to be ordained priest in the Republic was Janet Catterall in St Fin Barre’s Cathedral, Cork. The first two women priests in the Church of Ireland, Irene Templeton and Kathleen Young, were ordained in Belfast by the Bishop of Connor, Dr Samuel Poyntz. Ginnie Kennerley was the fourth woman priest to be so ordained. – Yours, etc,

Right Rev ROY WARKE,

Kerdiff Park,

Naas, Co Kildare.

Sir, – Christopher Wood (September 10th) appears to think that I am too young to remember the street cries of newsboys of old. I wish! He also refers to the death of the “Mayell” as unlamented. Poor Jiggs and Maggie! – Yours, etc,


Oaklands Drive,

Rathgar, Dublin 6.

Irish Independent:

In his recently-published letter, Philip O’Neill was right that the banality of irrational news from the Middle East distracts us from the fact that Arab cities were once beacons of tolerance, science and enlightenment.

Most of the pillars of Western civilisation were built up in Muslim Spain, such as free trade, open borders, diplomacy, etiquette, alternative medicine, hospitals, fashion, techniques of academic research and anthropology, to mention just a few.

It is true that the beheadings of innocent journalists, the desecration of Christian symbols and places of worship and asking Christians to leave the Iraqi city of Mosul within 24 hours were done under the rubric of religion.

However, we must remember that such appalling acts are nothing but a blot on a tradition that prides itself on being a cultural and religious mosaic.

The region has been a home for myriad faiths for thousands of years. There is no clash of civilisations or religions, as Muslims bear the brunt of oppression, injustices and atrocities.

Also, those who heap blame on religions as the drivers of hatred and animosities need look no further than the UK, where many disparate faiths, ethnic groups and religions cohabit peacefully. Another example of ancient harmonious cohabitation could be found in Jordan, where the kingdom derives its name from the River Jordan: a site revered by the three Abrahamic religions as the river where Jesus Christ was baptised by John the Baptist and the river which the Israelites had to cross to reach the promised land.

In our quest for civil rights and the sanctity of human life and dignity, we should always look for such shining beacons as oases of peace.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob, London NW2, UK


Badger cull based on old science

There is going to be a badger cull.

This will probably please many farmers who, for very good reasons, see the badger as a spreader of the dreaded TB to their cattle herds.

This will not please environmentalists, who see the badger as an integral part of Ireland’s ecosystem.

But do we really need to cull the badgers?

Do we really need to spend a fortune on an “eradication programme” that has proven itself to be anything but that which its proponents claim it is?

When an animal tests positive for TB on a farm, it is sent to the meat factories for slaughter. After the beast has been killed, its lungs are subjected to a veterinary inspection for lesions on the lungs caused by the disease.

In some cases, despite the positive on-farm test, the animal in question may not have any visible signs of the disease. The test is paid for by the farmers through veterinary fees paid by all who send livestock to be slaughtered.

This scheme was established many, many moons ago, when food processing and milk production was carried out in a completely different manner and when there were very poor medicines for dealing with TB in the human population.

It was also a time when all the beef eaten in Ireland was home-grown. Today, because the world is now a global market, the beef you eat may have been transported from many different countries in the world.

Do these exporting countries test for TB to meet our high standards, which see badgers being killed ?

The cull seems to be relying on old science.

Well, I suppose at least the badgers won’t form a group of protesters.

Dermot Ryan, Athenry, Co Galway


Rebuke for Leo, none for James

For more than three years James Reilly presided over fantasy budget proposals, medical cards being taken from sick children and controversy after controversy.

All the while, Dr Reilly retained the full, unwavering support of Enda Kenny.

Perhaps that was because Enda saw Dr Reilly as a close ally and supporter or perhaps because Dr Reilly was an unquestioning and eager participant as the Government annually slashed the public health budget and promoted the ideology of the privatisation of health.

Whatever the reason, it’s clear that the Taoiseach stood four-square behind Dr Reilly as he lurched from one scandal to the next.

Contrast that with his response to Leo Varadkar’s comments yesterday.

Mr Varadkar spoke candidly about the current state of the public health system and about how unrealistic some of the Government’s health policies actually were.

Mr Kenny, however, apparently didn’t take kindly to Mr Varadkar’s refreshing honesty and instead publicly rebuked him in a manner that he never did with Dr Reilly.

Simon O’Connor, Dublin 12


Hanafin – a woman scorned

Mary Hanafin has done it again, and there really is nothing quite like a woman scorned.

Micheal Martin still has a lot to learn. The Fianna Fail leadership’s handling of Ms Hanafin’s local candidacy has come back to bite him and the Fianna Fail party.

Senior figures in the party seem to be terrified of anything that will remind voters of failings while in government. Ms Hanafin has tussled with the elephant in the room. This will resonate with voters, but rankle with Mr Martin.

Mr Martin needs to bring Ms Hanafin back into the fold before she finds a way to really get stuck in.

Killian Brennan, Malahide Road, Dublin 17


Bring back the gold standard

For seven years, through letters to editors and politicians, I have endeavoured to raise the issue of the need for nations worldwide to return to the gold standard – to no avail.

It is that time of the year for me to make another attempt. Here goes: Fiat money is eventually worth the paper that it is printed on. Within 25 years, the planet will recognise such a need when the world’s major economies all collapse at the same time, and many of us will ask: “How could we have let this happen?” Sound familiar?!

Vincent J Lavery, Dalkey, Co Dublin


The great USC giveaway

Brendan Howlin thinks there is no room for a “giveaway budget”.

What about my Universal Social Charge, which is taken from me each month and given away?

Darren Williams, Blackglen Road, Waterford


The whole truth

You carried a piece stating that almost €7m had been spent on air travel for public service “high flyers” “whisked” around for the year 2013 (Irish Independent, September 9).

Various statistics and expenditure breakdowns were quoted, with the observation that the €6.97m spent was a 13pc increase over 2012. All these figures are doubtless true.

But one important element was missing from the article – for six months of 2013, Ireland held the EU Presidency.

It’s hardly surprising that this tenure would have incurred increased traffic to Brussels, the permanent hub of Europe.

It’s another example of nuanced journalism: print the truth, nothing but the truth. But don’t print the whole truth if it doesn’t fit the agenda.

I have a bet with my bookmaker that this letter will not be published. I’d love to lose it!

Larry Dunne, Rosslare Harbour, Co Wexford

Irish Independent


September 10, 2014

10 September 2014 Caroline

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A sunny but cool day. I potter around go to get my feet done at Carolines. Mary comes for a drive but can’t manage the stairs

Mary’s back not much better today, rabbit for tea and her back pain is still there.


David Wynne – obituary

David Wynne was a figurative sculptor who proved popular with his royal patrons and members of the public but was sometimes vilified by the art establishment

David Wynne at home in 1993

David Wynne at home in 1993 Photo: REX FEATURES

6:56PM BST 09 Sep 2014


David Wynne, who has died aged 88, was at the forefront of British sculpture, though he never went to art school; this was an omission which freed him from a preoccupation with movements and trends, though it never won him any favours with the art establishment.

In London alone, Wynne was responsible for a huge number of important public commissions. He carved one of the capital’s best-loved animal figures, Guy the Gorilla, in Crystal Palace Park. He sculpted Boy with a Dolphin at the Chelsea end of Albert Bridge, and Girl with a Dolphin outside Tower Bridge.

Boy with a Dolphin’ sculpture by David Wynne, 1975, on Cheyne Walk in Chelsea (REX FEATURES)

He created adornments for the Playboy empire and for the Cadogan Estate. He sculpted the massive Teamwork, featuring four men pulling a rope, for the headquarters of the builders Taylor Woodrow, and the Embracing Lovers at the Guildhall.

Elsewhere he sculpted the Tyne God fountain in Newcastle upon Tyne; Christ and Mary Magdalene at Ely Cathedral; and a Risen Christ for the front of Wells Cathedral, one of his most famous commissions.

His portraits included the Queen and the Prince of Wales, Sir John Gielgud, Lord Attenborough, Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Sir Thomas Beecham (who said the piece reminded him of all the mistakes his orchestra had made in the previous 10 years), the four Beatles and the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (whom he introduced to the group), and the Derby-winning racehorse Shergar.

In 1973 he designed the linked hands on the 50p pieces that marked Britain’s entry into the European Community. Some of Wynne’s most striking pieces were designed for garden settings. He created works for the Abbey Gardens at Tresco, including Gaia, a sculpture made from South African marble, which has a South African planting around it. The Prince of Wales was so taken by the figure he commissioned a similar piece, called Goddess of the Woods, for his gardens at Highgrove.

But Wynne was not a sculptor whose work was ever likely to feature at the Tate. His devotion to the figurative genre made him popular with patrons and the general public, but not with the art establishment — a fact which Wynne attributed to a deep-seated resentment at the success of a sculptor who never went to art school.

Whether this accounted for the venom directed at him over his most controversial work — the centrepiece of the Queen Elizabeth Gate at Hyde Park Corner, commissioned by Prince Michael of Kent in 1990 to commemorate his aunt’s 90th birthday — is not easy to say. Featuring a colourful and stylised lion and unicorn prancing around a tree filled with birds and animals, the design (and the gates by Giuseppe Lund) provoked strong and mostly negative reactions among the nation’s art critics. “All I can say about the Queen Elizabeth Gate is ‘Good grief’,” wrote The Daily Telegraph’s critic Richard Dorment. Wynne’s centrepiece, he proclaimed, was “just plain naff” and the Lund gates were “a total failure, a mess, an eyesore”.

The torrent of criticism did not seem to bother Wynne, who felt secure in the confidence that the Queen Mother loved the gates and that they were a true reflection of her personality — “essentially feminine, and with the popular touch”. Besides, as he observed, quoting Alexander Pope: “Nobody has yet erected a statue to a critic and I doubt anybody ever will.”

The son of a naval officer, David Wynne was born in the New Forest on May 25 1926. A weak child, he was bullied at Stowe and successful neither at work nor at sport until he joined the Royal Navy in 1944. He realised that in order to combat a natural tendency to laziness he must become emotionally involved in work and that he wanted to sculpt.

After the war he started reading Zoology at Trinity College, Cambridge — somewhat half-heartedly. The story goes that when the dons saw some undergraduates’ heads he had made, they waived his exams and encouraged him to study fine art, which he did under the guidance of the classical scholar Andrew Gow.

Jacob Epstein was an early mentor and patrons such as GM Trevelyan and Alistair McAlpine gave Wynne a helping hand in his early years. On Epstein’s advice, Wynne’s father spent the last of his capital buying a studio for his son, and in 1955 David held his first one-man show, at the Leicester Galleries. Commissions steadily increased.

David Wynne with his sculpture of The Beatles, May 19 1964 (HULTON ARCHIVE)

It was Guy the Gorilla which really established his career. Around 1960 the LCC asked him to make a sculpture for a high plinth at the Crystal Palace that would have railings around to keep out children. Wynne, who adored children, reacted by trying to think up something that children could play on and that was strong enough to stand up to them. He lighted on the idea of Guy the Gorilla, a great favourite of younger visitors to London Zoo.

When asked by Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs whether he ever worked from photographs, Wynne replied that he never did. When preparing for a piece, he would live for weeks with his subject, studying its characteristic behaviour and movements.

While working on Boy with a Dolphin, he spent hours under water watching the animals’ movements. When Pepsi Cola gave him carte blanche for a large piece, he spent three weeks in the Rocky Mountains and came out with a grizzly bear fashioned from a 36-ton block of marble.

Large, curly-haired and brisk, Wynne had a diverse collection of friends, from members of the Royal family to the Beatles. He worked in Wimbledon and then Fulham, where he converted a former women’s prison into a studio. In his later years he moved to South Devon.

He was appointed OBE in 1994.

David Wynne married, in 1959, Gill Bennett (née Grant). Their long and happy marriage ended with her death in 1990. He is survived by their son and by a stepson and stepdaughter; another son predeceased him.

David Wynne, born May 25 1926, died September 4 2014


NHS protest against privatisation The People’s March For The NHS arrived in London on Saturday after a 300-mile journey. Photograph: Melpressmen/ melpressmen/Demotix/Corbis

Polly Toynbee paints a terrifying, but accurate, picture of the NHS (Labour can only save the NHS by biting the tax bullet, 9 September). But her conclusion is not correct. There is another, better way.

There is a hidden assumption in her argument, which all the three main parties seem to share, that carrying on with Osborne-type cuts to 2019-20 to clear the budget deficit is somehow necessary and inevitable. It isn’t. Continued spending cuts, particularly in the NHS, in the sixth year of austerity with unemployment still over 2 million, is plain crackers, given the feedback effects that contract both incomes and government tax revenues. It isn’t even cutting the deficit. Alistair Darling’s two stimulatory budgets in 2009-10 brought the deficit down sharply from £157bn in 2009 to £118bn in 2011 – a reduction of nearly £40bn in just two years. Osborne’s austerity budgets have slowed the reduction to a trickle, down to £108bn now – a reduction of £10bn in three years. So which is more effective – public investment or spending cuts? It’s a no-brainer.

It’s not as though Osborne’s “recovery” offers an alternative either. Hardly anything has recovered except financial services. Wage levels, business investment, productivity, private debt and the trade gap are all strongly negative. The need for public investment now to kickstart the economy, when private investment is still flat on its back, is overwhelming. A £30bn investment package that could be funded for £150m at current interest rates would generate a million jobs within two years, increase incomes and cut the deficit far faster than the current prolonged austerity. It could even be funded without any increase in public borrowing at all, either by mandating the publicly owned banks RBS and Lloyds to prioritise lending for British industry, or by electronic printing of money (QE) targeted directly on industrial investment, or by a super-tax on the 1% ultra-rich.

The whole economy would at last revive, not just the froth at the top, and the straitjacket of Osbornomics and endless cuts would be removed. The financial pressures on the NHS wouldn’t melt away, but they would be enormously eased.
Michael Meacher MP
Labour, Oldham West and Royton

• Your 8 September edition highlighted the dangers to the NHS caused by the government’s top-down reorganisation (Cancer services weakened by NHS revamp, says report) and the secret negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which locks in privatisation (Unions say planned trade deal poses threat to NHS). What a pity, then, that while you were able to use your whole centrefold for images of the Great North Run, with multiple logos of the sponsor, Bupa, prominently displayed, you could find no space for photos, or indeed any coverage, of the banners carried by the Darlington Mums, who had completed their 300-mile march from Jarrow in defence of the NHS on the previous day, nor of the thousands who turned out to meet them in Trafalgar Square. Consequently, you did not report Andy Burnham’s pledges at the rally to restore the secretary of state’s responsibility for service provision, make the NHS the preferred provider, repeal the Health and Social Care Act, and exempt the NHS from TTIP. The fight for an NHS that puts people above profit continues, and your paper needs to be at the forefront of those not only reporting that fight but ensuring that politicians’ promises are widely publicised so that they can be held to account for delivering on them.
Dr Anthony Isaacs

• As one of the dozen or so people who gave up three weeks of my life to march the 300 miles from Jarrow to Westminster on the People’s March for the NHS, I was underwhelmed by the national media’s grasp of the predicament of UK taxpayers and disappointed at the poor reporting of the main issue.

Even your own online report (NHS ‘People’s March’ campaigners arrive in London after 300-mile march, 6 September) failed to place things in context when referring to the fact that only 6% of the NHS budget is spent on private healthcare. As an experienced health commissioner I can explain the workings of the clinical commissioning groups. We will begin to see radical changes to where the NHS budget is spent only once CCGs have rewritten the documentation for invitations to tender. The first wave of contracts will be let next April; then I expect the volume to increase in subsequent years. Therefore Oliver Letwin is perfectly correct, if he indeed said that the NHS will no longer exist in five years.

Few people we met on our long march wanted to pay the additional funds that will be necessary to maintain a more expensive health system where shareholder dividends are prioritised over the needs of patients. The new system will mirror the one in the US, and our wellbeing will suffer significantly.
Fiona Dent
Holyport, Berkshire

Grumpy Cat gets her photo taken with a fan as she arrives at the 2014 MTV Movie Awards Not enough room to swing a cat? Not this sort of cat, anyway … a fan takes a selfie with internet celebrity Grumpy Cat as she arrives at the 2014 MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles. Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/REUTERS

Your report (Lammy joins London mayor race, 5 September) cites several other possible candidates for the 2016 mayoral election, none of whom have declared, while ignoring the fact that I have been campaigning for two years to obtain the Labour nomination. There seems indeed to be some discomfort in the Westminster village about a political outsider challenging entrenched interests. Moreover, the contest is definitely to be held as a primary, as set out in the Collins review, which is precisely why I was encouraged to stand.
Christian Wolmar

• Doctor Who may be diverse in terms of gender, colour and sexual orientation (Who is diverse?, Letters, 4 September) but the programme is sadly speciesist when it comes to our own planet. While the Doctor cherishes all manner of species, robots, gases and rocks included, he shows no respect for any animal on the Earth other than humans. Indeed, he eats them. No, writers of Doctor Who, the Doctor would be vegan.
Richard Ross

• How can you have thought it was appropriate to illustrate a story about cramped flats (Report, 6 September) with a graphic showing a cat being swung by the tail? Perhaps you would like to refer back to one of your your own stories (Man filmed repeatedly swinging cat hands himself in, 11 November 2011).
Estella Baker

• Can I suggest a guided tour of HMS Victory in Portsmouth, to see “the cat” of nine tails (used to inflict punishment) and then understand expressions such as “enough room to swing a cat” and “the cat’s out of the bag”. The guides are both informative and cheerful; however, like me, some will be pro-feline.
Michael Reekie

• Re Spike Milligan’s gravestone (Yogic flying, 6 September), the stuffy, censorious C of E wouldn’t allow his “I told you I was ill” dictum in English. The proudly Irish and atheist Spike would have appreciated the irony of it only being allowed written in the Irish language. Thus it says: Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite.
Jeanne Rathbone (aka Sheela-na-Gig)

Passing Out Ceremony at the Metropolitan Police Peel Centre, Hendon, London, Britain - Mar 2009 Partners in crime: cuts to funding means that police have to rely on volunteers. Photograph: Rex

All those who work in policing will be surprised that you can publish an article about the way the police handle reports of crime (Police tell victims to solve crimes themselves, 4 September) without mentioning the biggest issue in policing: the ongoing reductions in funding.

The police service has already been reduced by over 30,000 staff and, as the home secretary made clear last week, these cuts will continue into the future. Faced with this, police forces have to constantly review every part of their operation to see where efficiencies can be gained, but this inevitably involves hard decisions on dealing with more reports over the telephone and trying to get more public involvement in reducing crime and disorder through the use of volunteers.

The principles of UK policing as laid down by its founder, Sir Robert Peel, has always been this concept of cooperation between police and public, and history and experience show it produces far better outcomes.

There is another issue here, however: recent reports on child sexual exploitation and domestic violence have shown that the police need to give far greater priority and effort to protecting vulnerable people. Given declining budgets, this will have to involve a shift from the priority given to some aspects of property crime, often the legacy of previous performance target regimes now thankfully abandoned by the home secretary and most police and crime commissioners.
Peter Fahy
Chief constable, Greater Manchester police

• I cannot count the number of times the public has been warned of the dangers of “taking the law into their own hands”. Now suddenly it’s what we’re supposed to do. The problem is, as it ever has been, that self-help investigation leads by a short route to self-help punishment, invariably violent. So the police get involved again. Not very clever. A government that reduces police funding so far below safe levels does not deserve the title.
Colin Yarnley
Southwell, Nottinghamshire

long term unemployed Jobhunter: Politicians should put the interests of the country and of jobseekers first. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian

You report that the coalition partners are looking to make changes in the Work Programme in their manifestos (Lib Dems widen attack after bedroom tax victory, 8 September). We agree improvements can be made. Much has been learned about about how to support the long-term unemployed over the last few years, particularly during a time of recession.  However, it is important that all politicians remain committed to helping the long-term unemployed back into sustainable employment.

Since 2011, the Work Programme has helped more than half a million people into work. Of these, more than 300,000 are already in long-term employment. This is a win-win for taxpayer, employers and, crucially, jobseekers themselves.

As employers we believe that the commitment of politicians to employment support – whether the Work Programme or a different scheme – must continue. We are asking for all politicians to put aside their difference and to put the long-term interests of the country and jobseekers first.
Paula McCarthy Domus Healthcare,

Simon Wilson Intelling

Adrian Swain MAS Landscapes

Andrew Grant Major Energy

Andrew Levesley Building and Property Maintenance

Anita Adams MTL Group

Ash Sawney Ocado

hong kong letter Hong Kong: the city’s political structure ‘needs to improve by steady progress’. Photograph: Jorg Greuel/Getty Images

Your editorial on the selection of the chief executive of the Hong Kong special administrative region by universal suffrage (A foolish decision, 3 September) is a groundless attack on China’s Hong Kong policy and lacks basic historical knowledge.

According to the decision adopted by the standing committee of China’s National People’s Congress, starting from 2017, the selection of the Hong Kong chief executive may be implemented by universal suffrage. It means that if implemented smoothly, only 20 years after Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, 5 million eligible voters of its 7 million population will be able to directly elect the chief executive through one-person-one-vote for the first time in history. It shows the rapid progress in Hong Kong’s democratic development and the broad base of consensus it enjoys. Such a major step forward could only be dreamed of during the 150 years of British rule.

The Sino-British joint declaration of 1984 made no mention of universal suffrage. It is the Chinese government who first proposed selection of the Hong Kong chief executive by universal suffrage, which was then clearly written into the 1990 Hong Kong Basic Law. It is thus incomprehensible how the editorial can argue “reasonably” that “China has broken the promises it made”.

In conclusion, I would like to point out that the Chinese government is firmly dedicated to the development of various causes in Hong Kong, democratic politics included. At the same time, Hong Kong’s political structure needs to improve by gradual and steady progress. The pressing task now is to make that first step forward and reasonably conclude the political debate that has hung over Hong Kong society for 20 years. Only thus can Hong Kong concentrate on its development and keep its competitive edge.
Miao Deyu
Chinese embassy, London

Dogs Asbo (L), wearing a union flag and Joined forces: the English take too much pride in a tradition that can hold us back. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images

Perhaps Westminster politicians should have spent more time creating a more equal and fair UK to help keep the union together rather than trying to act as policemen to the world with an overblown self-image, attitude and organisational way of operating across the UK that is a leftover from the UK as a colonial power, with Westminster reluctant to let go (Shock new poll says Scots set to vote yes to independence, 7 September). A more fair society can’t have all the power in one place. This is not just unfair, it is ridiculous.

Regardless of the outcome of the Scottish independence vote, more independence from Westminster will, I am sure, now be on the agenda for English regions, Wales and Northern Ireland in terms of more power to raise revenue and decide how it will be spent.

However, it might take a little while for Westminster politicians to catch up with this trend that started way back in faraway colonies that did eventually get their independence: God bless America! It can take a while for some things to sink in: the English take a tad too much pride in a tradition that can hold us back while holding us together.
Vaughan Thomas

• Discussions of the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence have been obscured by a fog of political mendacity and confidently presented spurious economics. There are two important points that have been ignored by many commentators. The first is that the Bank of England, despite its misleading name, is the central bank of the United Kingdom so that Scotland should have a part to play in the management of its assets, liabilities and operations.

The second is that the United Kingdom was formed by the union of two nations, England and Scotland, and the subsequent formalised unions with Wales and Ireland were with this United Kingdom, not with England. In the event of the primary union being dissolved, there would be no UK left because the political entity that Wales and Northern Ireland joined would have ceased to exist.

Portraying the UK as a confederation of four equivalent components is probably incorrect, even if politically convenient.
Peter Dryburgh

• Deborah Orr is sad that an option for major reform of the union is not on the ballot in the Scottish referendum (Debate has intoxicated Scotland, 5 September), but it may be that that question really needs broader involvement of the people of these islands. The truth is that we don’t really know what will happen if the Scots vote to break up the status quo. Anything is possible, as Osborne’s comic rush to get reforms in place following single opinion poll putting the yes vote ahead: after years of being ignored in Westminster, the Scots can now shift policy overnight through an opinion poll. Who knows, if the yes vote in the next poll increases again we might find that it is possible to negotiate on Trident after all.

We don’t know what will happen after a yes vote, partly because many in the no camp refused to contemplate any form of constructive engagement. The details of the future relationship between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom will take time to sort out: doing so will be the responsibility of the government elected next May. A yes victory will make those May elections far more interesting than any these countries have seen in living memory, making critical decisions about the structure of our society and letting us south of the border share the intoxication now gripping Scotland.
Martin Juckes

• Simon Jenkins again calls for a non-monetary vision of the future of the UK to inspire a no vote and loyalty from its constituent parts (A yes vote will produce a leaner, meaner Scotland, 5 September), and on the same day Jeffrey Henderson (Letters) calls for a governmental federal structure to be established. I should like to put the two together and say that a federal structure would call for a federal capital and that its creation could be the basis for a new vision.

In December 2011, the centenary of the announcement of moving the capital of British India from Calcutta to Delhi, the Architectural Review published an article of mine arguing that a similar move should be considered for this country.

The reasons were both economic and political: the urgent need to spread prosperity and the pressure for development away from the south-east, and the political need for a structure where the capital of the UK was not also the capital of England.

A hundred years ago, wealth was fairly evenly distributed, with thriving industry in the north and west and commerce and government in the south-east. But with industry no longer thriving, everything – both government and commerce – is now concentrated in the south-east.

Commerce we cannot move, but government we can. The government whose duty is to serve the whole country equally should be located in the place where it can best do so.
James Dunnett

• Mark Tran (Ministers try the Quebec ploy, 7 September) might have mentioned that the Parti Québecois supports “sovereignty partnership” with the rest of Canada, which, among other things, would mean that a sovereign Quebec would retain the Canadian dollar and the Canadian military. Nor should it be forgotten that the Cree people are demanding that Québec reverts to its pre-1912 boundaries, whereby the Cree would achieve a form of confederated “culture-land” within the Canadian nation state.

The picture across Canada is complex, especially in Alberta and British Columbia in relation to the so-called Northern Gateway and the actual and potential destruction of the ecology and community lives of First Nation people and their neighbours. Canada today is far from being a country at ease with itself, and not just in Quebec.
Bruce Ross-Smith

• I think Jonathan Freedland misunderstands what is happening in Scotland (If Britain loses Scotland, it will feel like an amputation, 5 September). The case being made for Scottish “separation” (sic) is notable in part precisely because, by proposing a currency union along with various measures of “social union”, it implicitly acknowledges that in today’s world total independence is impossible. The argument is: vote yes for a fresh start, on the basis of which we can then (through discussion and negotiation) develop areas of cooperation where it’s sensible; a new sort of union, then. The point about the fresh start is that it offers a way of jolting our sclerotic body politic off its deathbed. But a yes vote wouldn’t end interdependence, nor destroy the geo-cultural entity that is Britain.
Richard Middleton
Castle Douglas, Dumfries and Galloway

Referendum Campaigners call for a yes in the Scottish independence referendum, Edinburgh, 9 September 2014. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

People like me, psychologists who are aware of the power of the unconscious, are astonished by the lack of understanding shown by politicians, when, as with the coming referendum, policy and planning must be of concern to all the people. The word “yes” comes across as positive, full of energy and enthusiasm; “no” is felt as negative, passive, uncooperative.

For those concerned to keep the union, the slogan should have been: “Say yes to staying in the union, say no to not staying in the union.” Psychologists would have added a third slogan, “Yes to devo max”, in order to get past the crude polarity, and so increasing the chance of securing the yes. How clumsy the government has been to allow Alex Salmond to frame the choice (which concerns us all) in ways that suit him. Too late now – but what an opportunity lost.
Kate Springford
Lewes, East Sussex

• Whatever happens in Scotland’s referendum, can a new polity in both nations ensure that, in future, multi-option problems are resolved by multi-option ballots (Whatever Scots decide, the old order is dead and buried, 8 September)?

After all, a binary vote cannot measure consensus: with so many for and so many against, it calculates the very opposite, the degree of dissent.

Democratic decision-making should identify the collective will of those voting. Thus in multi-option preferential voting, people vote only in favour, albeit with varying degrees of enthusiasm, and the count identifies that option which enjoys the highest level of overall support.
Peter Emerson
Director, the de Borda Institute

• With the sudden awareness of the importance of the Scottish referendum vote (Last stand to keep the union, 8 September), perhaps David Cameron should start apologising. Would any rational person agree to a major constitutional change resting on a simple majority of one? A single Scottish voter could be tired or a bit tipsy, maybe ticks the wrong box or accidentally spoils the ballot paper, and as result, Scotland becomes independent. Is that really a sensible way of deciding such an important question?

And, as we know, there is “the morning after” effect, after some rash behaviour the evening before. Would not rationality have suggested that there should at least be a follow-up “confirmation” vote, one way or the other?
Peter Cave

• It seems increasingly likely that the Scottish referendum could be decided on a very small majority. In the case of a no vote this might seem a fair outcome, to preserve the status quo. In the case of a yes vote, the question should perhaps arise as to how large a majority should be decisive. The apparently uncertain results of Scotland becoming independent surely require a significant majority in favour, or else half the population is in effect kidnapping the other half on a journey into unknown and possibly dangerous territory.

Furthermore, if residence is the only qualification for voting, what is the value of the opinions of native Scots people who may, even quite temporarily, be living “abroad”? Conversely, what is the value of votes cast by non-Scottish natives who happen to be living, however temporarily, in Scotland?

In the case of a very close result, such considerations as these latter could raise serious disputation as to the validity of either outcome.
Ian King
Westbury on Severn, Gloucestershire

• Can it really be right, sensible and acceptable that this vote, which is going to be too close to call, could be decided on perhaps one vote?

Can it be right that such seismic change, such massive ramifications for not just Scotland but England, Wales and Northern Ireland as well, can be put in train when the Scottish people are so palpably of two minds? Surely we should demand a majority of at least 10%.

This generation of politicians, whom we thought had reached a nadir over the expenses scandal, has shown itself to be utterly incompetent and incapable – presiding, it seems, over the break-up of the nation they were elected to serve. They have been incapable of even conducting a debate of the issues, of explaining and clarifying; incapable of establishing proper criteria for the outcomes either way.

From snooty, arrogant sneering down south, to bombastic name-calling and lack of substance in Holyrood, the political class has conducted this issue like a playground squabble. It is to their eternal shame.

It is now so obviously time for massive and wholescale reform of the political system and the governmental structures in this country. If Scotland goes, so should the whole system.
Nigel Cubbage
Merstham, Surrey

• If the recent polls are to be believed, it seems that the Scottish independence referendum is effectively going to be a tie. We thus have a situation where the 8% or 9% of the population to whom the potential break-up of the United Kingdom has been delegated cannot agree among themselves. Consequently, a majority in favour of Scottish independence of half a dozen (or less) would determine the future of the 91% or so of us who are left in the rump of what was the United Kingdom. An impartial observer from the planet Mars would surely conclude that this was a curious way to run a democracy.

There is another issue that does not seem to have been addressed, namely, who is paying for this referendum? Is it the Scottish taxpayer or the British taxpayer? I have a nasty suspicion that I know the answer. And on an allied subject, I am rather resigned to paying for the knock-on costs of the split if Scotland votes yes, but has a wise government considered what these will actually be, and what effect they will have on the British economy (or what is left of it)?
Stephen Thair
Old Basing, Hampshire

Gordon Brown, Loanhead Miners Welfare Gordon Brown campaigns on the Scottish independence referendum at Loanhead Miners Welfare. Photograph: Murdo Macleod

It was intriguing to note George Osborne claim that there will be supposed “new” powers announced for the Scottish parliament over the next few days (Last stand to keep the union, 8 September).

These are not “new” powers and what will simply be outlined is a timetable on how the paltry powers already outlined by the unionist parties will be implemented in the event of a no vote. As an aside, it is intriguing to note that these same people refused to put this option on the ballot paper when given the opportunity to do so.

Over the next 10 days those wanting to retain the current union will throw everything bar the kitchen sink at the campaign to keep Scotland. Those voting no or who are undecided should ask themselves one simple question: “Why?”
Alex Orr

• Arguing that Scotland could not go it alone is rather pointless, when one just has to look at the experience of Ireland (The clock ticks, the polls narrow, 8 September). If the Westminster parties are desperate enough in their desire to save the union, there are two things they could do. The first is to give an undertaking to remove all nuclear weapons from Scotland after a no vote. Since this will have to be done anyway after a yes vote, one might as well face up to it. Having the union and Faslane both is probably no longer a realistic expectation. Secondly, there needs to be a guarantee that after a no vote, under no circumstances will Scotland be dragged out of the EU. If this means giving an undertaking not to hold any in/out referendum, so be it; better no referendum than no UK.

These two measures would spike two of the yes campaign’s most powerful guns. They might be drastic, but if the union is to be preserved, drastic measures are now needed.
Roger Musson

• Proposing greater powers for the Scottish parliament after a no vote is illogical. A no vote will be a vote for sweeping away all the time-wasting farrago of a “Scottish parliament” and “first minister”, and replacing them with two or three city regions, with councils and mayors.

It would be sensible if this were accompanied by a system of regional councils in England, but since there is currently no popular English enthusiasm for additional layers of local government, this should be deferred for further discussion.

Encouraging Gordon Brown to forget that he is no longer prime minister just emphasises how much the United Kingdom has suffered from Scottish Labour politicians’ obsession with sentimental nationalism rather than good government.
John Hall

War illustration ‘The arms industry prospers with the world in chaos’. Photograph: Gillian Blease

On western intervention

“We look at banning a party that won an election in Egypt, and back a repressive general who mounts a coup; we back Israel regardless of its lethally disproportionate response to rocket attacks; and we arm a feudal regime in Saudi Arabia that exported religious extremism around the globe with devastating consequences” (The west can’t solve the crisis in Iraq, 29 August). What a perfect summary of the policies of the people who claim to occupy the moral high ground! It is not surprising that many young men, disaffected with their countries of origin, have decided to flee to join a movement that in their eyes looks more honest.
Lucila Makin
Cambridge, UK

• Your letter writers (Reply, 29 August) commenting on Timothy Garton Ash’s article in the 8 August edition, and many others of us, would agree bedlam is left behind wherever western nations interfere in the affairs of other states – with or without good intentions. The arms industry prospers with the world in chaos.

Is it not ironic that these same nations that first went into Iraq to liberate it from its demonic leader are now returning to save its people from each other?
Rosemary Kornfeld
Mittagong, NSW, Australia

Scottish independence

There’s a certain fascination for a non-Scot in watching the debate about independence. It’s not the profound questions such as how long the oil will last or what currency would an independent Scotland use that draw the attention (29 August) so much as the anticipation of the chaos that would inevitably result from a yes vote. Being British, I am certain that there will have been no advance planning on either side as to the practicalities resulting from a breakaway Scotland.

For example, has the UK passport office prepared a list of Scottish holders of UK passports so that cancellation of their passports can be efficiently undertaken? Has the list been provided to the NHS to facilitate deregistration from GP surgeries of Scots living in the UK? Are there plans and draft contracts for the construction of the border crossing posts?

And on the Scottish side, have the necessary ceremonies been planned to allow members of the Scottish armed forces to unswear allegiance to the British monarch? Has the new Scottish monarch been decided? King Alex I of the House of Salmond, perhaps?

And finally, how will Scotland compensate for the kudos lost as a result of the British Open no longer being played on Scottish golf courses?
Alan Williams-Key
Madrid, Spain

• As a Welshman I want Scotland to stay … true to their dreams. I believe in a better Scotland for future generations, where society really does look out for one another from cradle to grave. Some say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – with a million in poverty and one in five Scots children affected by poverty – it’s broken.

Surely nobody doubts a Scotland that has a huge amount of Europe’s oil and gas couldn’t manage? And importantly, for the first time, a written constitution. A truly democratic, equal, free-of-Trident and prosperous Scotland is just the start of creating a new, better, fairer relationship between all the nations of these islands. Go for it, Scotland!
Chris Davies
Denbugh, UK

How much power is enough?

How much power is needed to move four people about with reasonable levels of speed and comfort? Any Ford Focus owner will testify that 100kW (134 horsepower) is perfectly adequate, and yet European auto manufacturers are allowed – indeed encouraged – to produce luxury cars and SUVs with four times this power.

On the other hand, if a common citizen employs a mere 2kW for the task of cleaning their house they will be pounced upon by Eurocrats for wasting energy (29 August). What better example could there be of how the luxuries of the rich and powerful are treated differently from the necessities of the rest of us?
Graham Andrews
Spokane, Washington, US

• You seem to have printed a right-wing tabloid article. I don’t regard the unfiltered opinions of Which? magazine as international news. Why haven’t you made contact with the elected representatives and officials responsible for the legislation on energy efficiency, as well as their critics, and written a properly researched, informative news piece? Why are you presenting EU minimum standards as “restricting choice”?
Anne Whyte
Oud-Heverlee, Belgium

Trouble in Tasmania

Your story Tasmania to tear up forestry peace deal (29 August) may have looked like a routine triumph of commercial over environmental concerns, but it is more bizarre than that. The logging industry that the state’s new Liberal government is vowing to resuscitate had, only a decade ago, the highest proportional rate of native forest destruction in the OECD.

This was achieved by virtually gifting most of the enormous public forest harvest to private woodchip operators. Over half the industry jobs disappeared en route to the peak of the automated chipping frenzy a decade ago.

The new Liberal government, threatened by growing global concerns about climate change and sustainability, is considering ducking them through sales to China, burning trees for power generation and creating draconian laws against protests in the public forest “workplace”.

The scrapping of the peace deal, and the general hostility to conservation, may be best understood by analogy to the reactionary perversity that inspired the Afghan Taliban to dynamite the Bamiyan Buddhist sculptures.
John Hayward
Weegena, Tasmania, Australia

Importance of the siesta

Perhaps Stuart Heritage is unaware that in the majority of countries of the world a siesta is perfectly normal (29 August). A short sleep gives more energy for work in the second half of the day and this sensible habit is not restricted to hotter climates. In some cases it is even regarded as a right.

When we went to teach in China in the 80s we were at first taken aback to see that so many people appeared to be homeless and obliged to squat in their workplace. It was only later that we realised that the camp beds at the back of the room that you could see when you went into a store or a bank were there so that the workers could have their siesta.

The most blatant example of this was when I went to Lhasa and was told that the splendid hotel where I was lodged had recently been taken over by a private international company, but kept its local management. It seemed surprising that, although the hotel would often claim to be fully booked, if someone tried to make a reservation, a whole line of rooms on the top floor were never let.

Further investigation showed that they were regularly used by the staff for their siesta. And why not?
Pat Stapleton
Beaumont-du-Ventoux, France

Book superlatives

What a terrifically fascinating article by Nathan Filer (29 August), filled with inventive wit, jokes and many surprises. It is a piece of writing that is destined to move hundreds and thousands of book loving readers to tears. I ate up every single paragraph of this touching, funny and brilliant read and was left hungry for more. Filer is an author who is simply not from this world.

OK, so maybe I overdid this endorsement a little.

While reading the first few lines of Filer’s article on the superlatives in book blurbs, I was tempted to shout: “Well obviously!” Had I ever bought a book because of somebody’s quote on the cover? The answer is no.

There are also many varied works that I have been lured into reading by the simple phrase, “You must read this.” But sometimes I don’t even finish these.

So, yes, on the one hand never judge a book by those silly superlatives. But on the other hand don’t judge a book by however many people say it is an essential read.
Alexandra Wilbraham
Jena, Germany


• Alison Flood’s Shortcuts column (15 August) described a children’s book, My Parents Open Carry, which the authors wrote because they had “looked for pro-gun children’s books and couldn’t find any”. Doubtless the pro-gun lobby loves it, and it probably won’t be long before the NRA nominates it for an award – perhaps a Bullitzer prize?
Ken Burns
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

• Three of the sources quoted in your story on the British harvest, From berries to barley (29 August), are fine examples of nominative determinism. They should form a company to market natural foods. Their message would be admirably clear and moderate: Garner Wildish Oates.
Michael Appleby
Edinburgh, UK


As an NHS doctor I have been greatly upset by the events surrounding the removal of Ashya King from Southampton general hospital, and the automatic and general assumption made by the media and the public in the early stages of the story that his parents were probably right to rescue their little boy from the clutches of an inadequate and uncaring NHS.

I qualified as a doctor in 2008 and worked for two years in the NHS before spending the next three years serving in the army. When I returned to the NHS last year I was astonished to find how low staff morale had sunk in my few years away.

Over the course of the past few months, my own morale has dipped to match that of my colleagues as I have more keenly felt the relentless onslaught of criticism that doctors, nurses, and other health professionals suffer from the media, politicians and medical-litigation industry.

The current exodus from general practice is a direct result of this: at a time when the government is trying to increase the number of GPs, one in three is retiring early, one in seven is leaving the country, and recruitment into general practice this year has fallen 15 per cent where previously it was rising.

The NHS is an easy target for the media and politicians, and those looking to criticise it can find any number of outlets. But trying to defend it feels like screaming into a vacuum. I cannot pretend that the NHS is a perfect system but there are good news stories out there that get very little, if any, coverage. For example, just this year the Commonwealth Fund rated the NHS as the best healthcare system in the world when compared to 10 other Western countries including the US, Canada and a handful of Scandinavian and northern European countries. This was widely reported in the US, which came last in the rankings, but did not seem to warrant a mention here in the UK.

I passionately believe that universal healthcare, free at the point of delivery, sets us above so many other countries and we should  be proud of this system rather than constantly denigrating it.

The NHS always has, and always will, rely on the goodwill of the people who work within it, the goodwill to go the extra mile, to work the extra hours and to work outside the exact terms of a job description, but I worry that the goodwill is running out as morale slumps.

The occasional pat on the back would go a long way towards remedying this and preventing the widespread apathy and dejection that could lead to the inexorable decline of the NHS.

Dr Adam Staten

New Malden, Surrey

I have much to thank Southampton hospital trust for, particularly the dedication they showed to our grandson, two weeks old at the time, and desperately ill. We didn’t see any arrogant doctors there – just a team of professionals dedicated to getting him better, which they did. But of course the media don’t seem interested in good-news stories when it comes to the NHS.

Mike Willson

Southwick, East Sussex


Two nations with different visions

When Yasmin Alibhai-Brown says she would like the British “nation” to stay as one (8 September) she surely means she would like the “state” to stay as one. A state is a politically organised area over which a central authority has jurisdiction. A nation is a group of people who think of themselves as being held together by a shared culture and common values.

The UK state contains at least three nations. Such a situation would not normally threaten the cohesion of the state. The danger arises when the values of any particular national group differ markedly from those of the state. This appears to be what is happening in the UK now, with the Scottish nation having a vision of a just society that is increasingly divergent from what Alibhai-Brown refers to as the “manic and ruthless Anglo-Saxon model”. In such a situation, centrifugal forces gather strength and the danger of political fragmentation arises.

That is what the Scottish referendum is all about; a nation with a set of ideals and values that have become radically different from those of the centralised state.

Clive Wilkinson

Morpeth, Northumberland

Your editorial (8 September) says that the No campaign has traded in fear. Not me. I have been debating in public with nationalists since November 2012, launched the Aberdeen Better Together campaign, introduced Gordon Brown when he spoke to a packed house in Aberdeen at the end of June, and opposed Elaine C Smith on BBC Any Questions? in Melrose at the end of August.

My line has been to accentuate the positive, an easy one to deliver from personal experience as a medical scientist and a regular TV and radio interviewee, because the British science system is far more successful than any other (except the US which spends far more), because the BBC is by far the best broadcasting system in the world, and most important of all, because Scottish involvement in both, from their foundation to today, has been, and is, integral to their success.

Hugh Pennington


I’m not sure that all of those who will be voting Yes are confident of “a glorious future” as your editorial,  has it. However it will  be our mess, and not an Eton mess.

Joan Hoggan


The main argument of the No campaign is that people should vote out of economic self-interest. Their slogan might well have been “Better-off together”.

But, even if Scots could be persuaded that they might be “better off” staying in the UK, for many this would still not determine their vote.

Some people choose self-employment, with its attendant financial risks, rather that work for a boss or a company they don’t like. People take early retirement, go part-time, move to lesser paid jobs etc – all to improve their quality of life, knowing they will not be better off financially. The No campaign seems  to regard the voters as wholly materialistic. But many are not.

John Boaler

Calne, Wiltshire

It seems odd that the Yes campaign do not want to be governed by Whitehall but are happy to be governed from Brussels.

T Sayer


Scotland has long since ceased to be remotely Tory and the Conservatives in power might well see it as more of a liability to them than as an asset to the nation. David Cameron is perhaps not as dumb as he looks. The Conservatives would surely prefer to remain in power at the helm of a smaller union than to lose everything for a decade or more next year.

Alex Salmond may have the reputation for being sly, but it could be Cameron who’s pulling the fast one.

Paul Dunwell


There has been a feverish scramble by Westminster to ensure that Scotland remains in the union, but I have had no contact from my MP asking for my views.

I could, however, give him many clear answers: my son, as an English student, will leave university with around £30,000-worth of debt; I have a chronically ill relative who relies on repeat prescriptions at an extortionate regular cost; and we have an elderly relative who has now sadly used up most of her life savings to enjoy a decent level of care in the community. In Scotland all of these aspects are free and are funded by UK revenue, largely down to the taxes paid by the English who represent well over 93 per cent of the UK population.

I welcome Scottish independence because it will mean that I no longer have to subsidise Scotland through the outdated Barnett formula. The Government is bending over backwards to please Scotland… but not on my behalf. Who speaks up for the honest, law-abiding English taxpayer?

Trevor Freeman

Lowestoft, Suffolk


It now seems possible that Scotland will become independent and that the country I was born in and which has always been my home will cease to exist.

That this is even possible should be a source of consuming shame to politicians in both major Westminster parties: the Tories because they have driven Scotland to this by running Britain for the exclusive benefit of a small number of extremely rich people; and the Labour Party for failing to offer even a faint hope of anything better.

John Harries



Perfect baby coverage

I’ve read The Independent since it was first published in 1986, and if ever I needed a reason to continue reading it (which I don’t), that reason can be found on page 16 of the paper of 9 September. Four lines of type under the headline “Monarchy; second royal baby expected”. Perfect.  A news report without any of the gushing, fawning, or sycophantic drivel that we can expect from the other papers on a daily basis,  ad infinitum.

And judging by the Letters page of the same edition, I’m not the only person who feels like this.

Peter Henderson

Worthing, West Sussex


The Scottish referendum debate has split the country in two. Is it time for the Queen to intervene?

Sir, When the American colonies were lost in 1782 (leading article, Sept 8), George III stubbornly refused to accept his prime minister’s resignation. Lord North had to submit it several times, wailing that he could not remain after having brought about “the ruin of my King and country”. The monarch eventually acquiesced. Should Scotland be lost next week, it is unlikely that David Cameron would encounter similar royal resistance if a sense of honour should lead him to conclude that, as leader of the Conservative and Unionist party, he ought not to remain in office. George Osborne, the strategic mastermind, ought to consider his position too.

Lord Lexden

London SW1

Sir, As Head of State in the United Kingdom, the Queen should address the nation. This is the one time in her reign when she must take this initiative, overriding her ministers if necessary. She has a unique insight into the affairs of her realm that spans more than 60 years.
If she is convinced of the benefits of the union, she must speak out to ask the Scottish people to stay in the United Kingdom.

Andrew Y Finlay

Llandaff, Cardiff

Sir, The opinion polls put the Yes/No vote neck and neck. This means that the future of the United Kingdom has been potentially placed in the hands of a few thousand 16-year-old Scottish schoolchildren, given that they have unwisely been offered voting rights in the referendum (or, alternatively, a few thousand EU migrants who happen to be living temporarily in Scotland).

DC Martin

Nailsea, Somerset

Sir, Whether Scotland remains in the union or becomes independent is for the Scottish people to decide. However, if the Scots vote to remain in the union and achieve “devo max” as promised by the three leading UK political parties yesterday, then the West Lothian question has to be resolved. The English people cannot be expected to endure indefinitely Scottish involvement in our government when English representatives have no similar standing north of the border.

We need a level playing field or the union will become more threatened by English than Scottish opinion. In the meantime the conspiracy of silence among the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem parties on the matter is not encouraging. Another issue for Ukip to exploit?

J Stratford

Brassey Green, Cheshire

Sir, As part of the 2012 Edinburgh agreement, the two governments agreed that the referendum should “deliver a fair test and a decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland and a result that everyone will respect”. If the outcome of the referendum is a narrow win for the “Yes” campaign, how could it be said that the referendum had delivered a decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland?

Peter Knowles

Bradwell, Devon Sir, We have had an avalanche of articles saying what a disaster Scottish independence would be, but not one pointing out the potential economic benefits for the rest of the UK, especially cities in the north of England, where many businesses would relocate from Scotland — unless the SNP watered down its socialist policies.

David Hutchison

Ewhurst Green, E Sussex

Sir, Scotland might get its freedom — paid for mainly by its oil and gas. So why wouldn’t the Shetland islanders then make a bid for independence from Scotland? They are a people who have as much in common with Edinburgh as most Scots do with London. Independence and ownership of the natural resources surrounding the Shetlands could give a huge boost to the islanders’ community wealth.

M Stanley

Malvern, Worcs

Sir, As a descendant of Sir Walter Scott I empathise with the romance and idealism behind the “Yes” campaign, the vision of a fairer society, etc — but all this is already in the hands of the Scottish government. If the “Yes” vote is partly to register disenchantment with the government at Westminster, people should look at the government in Edinburgh and ask whether its record is any better.

With the latest commitments to devolve further powers given a “No” vote, I hope voters will think long and hard about their decision.

Daphne Brotherton

London W8

Sir, Until earlier this week I was a firm voter for “No”. However, I am strongly opposed to any further powers being devolved to Holyrood and still more opposed to the federal UK that will almost necessarily follow — without any mandate from the other members of the union. Pity there is no “devo min” option. Do I now abstain or even vote “Yes”?

Dr Michael Tait

Campbeltown, Argyll

Sir, Advocates of “Better Together” should stop talking of “independence”, an emotionally powerful and positive word, and speak instead of “separation”, which is altogether more neutral and diagnostic. We Scots are already independent in the same way as are all other citizens of the UK. The lines of battle are between unionists and separatists, not between those seeking freedom and those who, by inference, subjugate them.

Archie Currie


Sir, I find it very strange that such a momentous decision can be decided on a tiny majority, possibly as low as one. Surely it should be at least two thirds.

Richard Maude

Bosham, W Sussex

Sir, Last month, at Tiree airport in the Inner Hebrides, I unveiled a memorial to 16 Second World War Coastal Command aircrew who lost their lives in a mid-air collision over the then RAF Tiree. My father was the captain of one of the two Handley Page Halifax aircraft in the collision.

It upsets me to think that the United Kingdom for which my father gave his life may shortly cease to exist.

Ken Organ


Countrywide, predators such as magpies and sparrowhawks ‘have no negative impact whatsoever on native songbird species’

Sir, Clive Aslet (Sept 9) claims that “the jury is out” on the impact of predators on songbird populations. No it isn’t. The jury, in the form of numerous scientific papers, delivered its unanimous verdict long ago by showing conclusively that, countrywide, predators such as magpies and sparrowhawks have no negative impact whatsoever on native songbird species. Paradoxically, the presence of predators can have a beneficial effect on songbirds, by causing the latter to be lighter in weight and thus fitter and more agile in escaping possible predation.

Dr Sir Christopher Lever, Bt

Winkfield, Berks

Without solicitors, parents are being driven to the courts and to representing themselves

Sir, Making court rules simpler to help families to navigate the justice system is helpful but masks the real problem: families being in court in the first place. Solicitors steer families away from the courts and towards alternatives such as mediation. When mediation does not work, they encourage clients towards appropriate settlement of cases rather than fully contested hearings. Without solicitors, parents are being driven to the courts and to representing themselves (report, Sept 8, and letter, Sept 9).

The government’s cuts to legal aid, which came into force in April 2013, could easily cost more than the intended savings. Removing solicitors from the process is a false economy. It is the families fighting in court and their children who will suffer most.

Andrew Caplen

President, the Law Society

Man has rated these wonderful fish for centuries, but flying salmon? Leave that to the airlines

Sir, The “Salmon Cannon” (Sept 8) might make upstream migration less arduous and less traumatic but what about the returning fish (kelts) wanting to get back to the sea to recover from spawning or the young salmon (smolts) journeying to the sea to feed grow and mature? A device that sucks thousands of live fish through a tube at 22mph could not possibly cater for them — and certainly not for the Atlantic salmon in British rivers.

Pity the poor salmon. Man has rated these wonderful creatures for centuries, but flying salmon? Please leave that to the airlines.

Stephen M Fielding

Kirkbrae, Galashiels

Neonicotinoids ‘affect all insects as well as birds and other wildlife that encounter them in sufficient amounts’

Sir, Rob Yorke says that neonicotinoid insecticides “target specific pests” (Nature Notebook, Aug 16). This is misleading — they are broad spectrum toxins that affect all insects as well as birds and other wildlife that encounter them in sufficient amounts.

It is also unhelpful to give the impression that these chemicals do not target “bees and hoverflies”. While neonicotinoid use is intended to reduce populations of certain pests, there is significant collateral damage; 500 dead queen bumblebees were recently found containing high levels of neonicotinoids next to a field of oil seed rape at Havering, east London.

Dozens of scientific papers have now shown that the levels of neonicotinoids found in arable fields reduce the foraging and breeding success of bees. A partial ban is in place and for the sake of our bees and our food supply this ban should be broadened and extended.

Matt Shardlow

Chief executive, Buglife


SIR – A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary some years ago found Britain’s current set-up of 43 police forces unsuited to the 21st century.

Many small forces remain ill-equipped to tackle cross-border crime and the high cost of senior officers’ salaries is an obvious duplication. The expensive appointment of Police and Crime Commissioners has compounded an already inefficient system.

I am no fan of Alex Salmond, but, as a retired senior police officer, I think that what he has done for the police in Scotland – reducing it to a single force, apparently without resistance or difficulty – is a model for England and Wales. Reducing the number of forces in England and Wales from 43 to nine, as well as scrapping PCCs, would free up enough money to give this country the police structure it so desperately needs.

Peter Power
Lyndhurst, Hampshire

Boarding as care

SIR – The potential of a boarding school education to transform the lives and prospects of vulnerable children is something that Buttle UK can well attest to.

For years our charity has placed young people, many of whom would otherwise have ended up in care, at independent and state boarding schools.

Between 70 and 80 per cent of the children we fund get five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C each year, compared with just 15 per cent of pupils in the care of social services nationally.

Evidence suggests boarding can also increase employability and reduce the chances of offending and homelessness.

Gerri McAndrew

Chief Executive, Buttle UK
London SW1E

Heavenly umpire

SIR – As author of The Reluctant Umpire and a member of the Jewish faith, may I offer my services for the upcoming Vatican versus Church of England cricket match?

I am sure that my intense neutrality in the outcome of the match will suit both sides and their true Umpire-in-Heaven.

Robbie Book
London N20

Business and the EU

SIR – As economists and economic commentators we are writing to add our voices to the growing demands for a new relationship between Britain and the European Union and to express our support for an in-out referendum.

For too long the debate over Britain’s EU membership has been characterised by half-truths and outright fabrications. The misleading claim that millions of jobs would be lost if Britain were to leave the EU has been comprehensively disproved.

Research shows that British business wants a substantial change in Britain’s relationship with the EU. If negotiations by the Government fail to secure better terms, there is nothing to fear from Britain leaving.

Britain’s prosperity increasingly depends on its ability to trade with the whole world, not just its European neighbours. In 1980 the EU accounted for more than 30 per cent of world GDP; today that figure is less than 19 per cent. The share of British exports to the rest of the EU has fallen by 10 per cent in the past 10 years alone.

We need to move beyond a 20th-century economic mindset and be free to develop our links with the rising economies outside Europe.

Dr Ruth Lea
Chairman, Economists for Britain

Roger Bootle
Managing Director, Capital Economics

Bryan Gould
Former Labour shadow cabinet member

John Greenwood
Chief Economist, Invesco Ltd

Professor Philip Booth
Editorial and Programme Director, IEA
Professor of Insurance and Risk Management, Cass Business School

Ryan Bourne
Head of Public Policy, Institute of Economic Affairs

Keith Boyfield
Executive Director, Keith Boyfield Associates

Dr Eamonn Butler
Director, Adam Smith Institute

Mike Denham
Research Fellow, The TaxPayers’ Alliance

Dr David Green
Chief Executive, CIVITAS

Dr Oliver Hartwich
Executive Director, The New Zealand Initiative

David Lascelles
Senior fellow and joint founder of the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation

Neil MacKinnon
Global Macro Strategist, VTB Capital

Professor Kent Matthews
Associate Dean for Engagement and Professor of Money and Banking, Cardiff University

John Mills
Chairman and Founder of JML

Iain Murray
Vice President for Strategy, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Washington DC

David Myddleton
Professor D R Myddelton, Emeritus Professor of Finance and Accounting, Cranfield School of Management

Brian Reading
Former economics adviser to Edward Heath

Professor Colin Robinson
Advisory Council Institute of Economic Affairs and Emeritus Professor, Surrey University

David B Smith
Beacon Economic Forecasting

Professor Phil Whyman
Professor of Economics, Business, Economics and International Business, University of Central Lancashire

Damon de Laszlo
Chairman, Economic Research Council

Saving your skin

SIR – When you have written on your banana skin, and then eaten the banana within, don’t forget its final use: as the best fertiliser for a rose bush. Simply wrap the skin round the base of the rose.

Julia Evans
Beganne, Morbihan, France

Fancy that

SIR – My wife and I have been married for more than 30 years and have only just realised that our respective parents were married on the same day, September 9 1939 – 75 years ago today.

David Bishop
London SW16

Britain is not to blame for migrants in Calais

SIR – Nathalie Bouchart, the mayor of Calais, not only blames Britain for the immigrants on her doorstep, but also seems to expect us to take responsibility for them. Surely the fact that France is a signatory of the Schengen agreement is what has allowed the immigrants to get there in the first place.

Nigel Godfrey
Caerphilly, Glamorgan

SIR – I was dismayed to read that the Italian authorities have been waving illegal immigrants through without taking any personal details or fingerprints.

Immigrants are supposed to apply for asylum in the first free country they arrive in, so France should be sending them back to Italy to be processed properly, not trying to close Calais down.

Carola Magill
London SW18

SIR – It is a legal requirement in France to carry some form of identification at all times, so why are the French not arresting these migrants, who have no papers or passports and are apparently trying to get into Britain? How did they manage to get so far across France without needing to show their papers?

Perhaps Britain should introduce ID cards and deport anyone without a card or passport back to the Continent.

Zigi Davenport
Eardisland, Herefordshire

Brewing ambition: a barista prepares a syphon coffee on National Coffee Day in Colombia Photo: AFP/Getty

6:59AM BST 09 Sep 2014


SIR – Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, argues that a coffee barista is not a high-quality job with prospects.

We at Costa Coffee could not disagree more. The hospitality sector employs 10 per cent of Britain’s workforce, which accounts for more than 2.7 million jobs. We must not dismiss the contribution the sector makes to the wider economy or underestimate the opportunities for progression available to those working in these jobs. We provide development opportunities and have had many success stories, with 65 per cent of team members on our internal development programmes achieving promotion into more senior roles.

Our own master of coffee, Gennaro Pelliccia, who is responsible for the quality of all Costa coffee, started as a barista in the 1990s. The sky is the limit.

Jason Cotta
Managing Director, Costa Retail UK
Dunstable, Bedfordshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has decided to implement some of the findings of the recent McLoughlin report on reducing costs in health insurance (“Varadkar seeks price freeze deal with health insurers”, Front Page, September 8th).

In a report that deserved wider attention, Pat McLoughlin concluded that private patients are poorly served by our current insurance model of care, with its lack of an integrated and comprehensive approach in both primary and secondary care.

The insurance industry says it has to raise its premiums to keep up with changes in medical practice. It seems wedded to this reactive approach even as it loses members.

The introduction of competition has meant our insurers are more concerned with vying with each other for a declining market than they are with becoming players in the healthcare system.

Instead of developing healthcare incentives that can leverage change in our health system, they market complex plans that confuse subscribers. I heard one company recently proclaim that they now had 100 plans available for “customers to choose from”.

All over the developed world everyone agrees that secondary care is too expensive, often inappropriate and cannot be delivered effectively without a vibrant primary care sector. The management of patients with common chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and obstructive airways disease are good examples of illnesses that needs more and considerably less expensive GP input.

All the international evidence points to general practice as the single biggest moderator of costs in healthcare. Countries with well-functioning general practice spend less of their gross national product on health than those, like ours, with less well-resourced general practice.

If our health insurers want to become involved in delivering appropriate and affordable care to a growing number of patients, this will involve structuring a payments system that rewards integrated and comprehensive medicine.

This cannot be done in an insurance culture that has little or no expertise in general practice. The answers to these questions matter because our health insurers are letting the modern world of healthcare development pass them by. Government needs to facilitate the industry to become players in healthcare with modernised legislation, giving them a place in policy development in return for a commitment to best international practice.

We now know the Minister has read the McLoughlin report and our health insurers would be wise to read it again and act on it in order to serve patients better. – Yours, etc,


Professor of General


School of Medicine,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.

Sir,– Fintan O’Toole is to be commended for his article questioning the value of the veneration of recently deceased political leaders (“Turning our dead taoisigh into ‘great leaders’”, Opinion & Analysis, September 9th).

Living in London, I was shocked by the glorification of Margaret Thatcher at the time of her death, and it was certainly interesting to see a similarly beatific portrayal of Albert Reynolds in the national media upon his passing.

While it is easier to write a laudatory piece of prose upon the death of a former leader, Fintan O’Toole should be praised for embracing the ambiguity and conflicting viewpoints that most often surround a life in politics. – Yours, etc,


Southwark Park Road,



Sir, – Prescription drugs can cost from from four to seven times more in the Republic of Ireland compared to Northern Ireland. Sick people are being cheated and this is wrong.

Leo Varadkar has been told he is powerless to change this situation (“Minister told by department officials he has no power to set drug prices”, September 6th).

There is something the minister could do – he could permit Irish people to fill their prescriptions by mail order from Northern Ireland. It is already legal to use an Irish prescription in a Northern pharmacy; however, regulations issued by Micheál Martin in 2003 forbid patients from ordering their medicines online. Like other European countries, the UK has a functioning system of regulating and permitting pharmacies to fill prescriptions by mail order, posting the goods to the address on the prescription.

Who are we protecting with this rule? Northern Irish pharmacists may post prescription drugs to their Northern customers, yet their attempts to ship to the South are intercepted at the border. Annually we hear the Irish Medicines Board issuing dire warnings about the threat from drugs ordered on the internet, as if Boots were some kind of drug smuggling outfit.

If Mr Varadkar wishes to give Irish people fair drug prices, he merely needs to wave his ministerial pen and cancel this harmful regulation. – Yours, etc,


Montpelier Place,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Like Mary Feely (“School uniforms not fit for purpose”, Opinion & Analysis, September 3rd), I never cared for wearing a school uniform during the “best days of my life”. While I do “get” a lot of her points, her prescription for comfort of the child’s PE outfit of tracksuit, polo shirt and trainers leaves a lot to be desired.

God help us if this is what has come to be deemed acceptable for mainstream daywear in 2014. Yet, of course, she is right and it is deemed acceptable. We can see that all around. Neatness of dress is rapidly becoming anachronistic. However, the purpose of a “tracksuit” is explained in its title. Why must everything be dumbed down under the justification of “comfort” and “convenience”?

Sure, the A-line skirt or V-neck sweater might be tweaked for something less “horribly scratchy” but not at the expense of steering children towards of some degree of professional attire, and while Ms Feely (and many others) may find men’s neckties passé, some, albeit a minority, of men still appreciate how a nice, elegant tie sets off a neat suit.

There is a difference to be drawn between comfortably casual and sloppy. Tracksuits in the classroom would be in the latter category and a poor example to instil in children for their future. – Yours, etc,



Blackrock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – In two weeks, the Taoiseach will travel to the United Nations in New York, to join other world leaders in a review of the global strategy to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems.

That strategy was agreed in the year 2000, and is based on eight goals that the global community is set to achieve next year.

Now, with less than 500 days to go until the deadline, the verdict is that the recipe agreed 14 years ago is working, but that rich countries have not kept their side of the bargain.

While enormous progress has been made on the seven “Millennium Development Goals” for which developing countries are responsible, progress on the eighth target, which is the responsibility of the West, has been patchy.

Rich countries have by and large resisted the much-needed reform of the unfair trade rules that keep people locked in poverty, and have failed to deliver the increases in overseas aid that they committed to.

But it is not too late. Ireland has gained great global influence on the basis of our undeniable commitment to a fairer, more stable world and our willingness to invest in the policies and structures the United Nations are promoting. We do that, because we know that as a small, open economy, Ireland depends on its global reputation as a reliable partner and as a people that keeps its promises.

The Taoiseach now has the chance to announce to the world that Ireland intends to honour its commitments to the Millennium Development Goals and that we will reverse six years of cuts to the aid budget.

Such a decision would not just get our aid programme back on track, it will also help bring about the stable and fairer world that Ireland needs for its own prosperity. – Yours, etc,



1-2 Baggot Court,

Lower Baggot Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – What joy to read of Inis Mór’s “energy independence” initiatives in Lorna Siggins’s report (“Sun, seaweed, rubbish: the theme of the newest Aran Islands tour”, September 6th). The people of the island got together and decided to use the island’s own resources to begin to create a situation where the island will be “energy independent” by 2022. Insulating houses, harnessing the power of sun and wind, together with recycling, are combining to ensure goals of energy self-sufficiency will be met.

Among the backers of this initiative is the EU project Remote (Renewable Energy Training & Demonstration Network for Remote Communities).

Why can this not be done across the whole country? Jobs would be created and education and training services protected. There would be reductions in energy imports, energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Reductions in energy costs means more money in people’s pockets, which could result in more local spending, hence more local employment. More employment means more money in the government’s coffers, and less spending on unemployment services.

High stress levels and illnesses exacerbated by living in cold, damp environments caused by poor housing design and exorbitant energy costs would be reduced, resulting in savings in health services.

Another bonus would be a surge in the creative mind-set where citizens can use their energy, skills and imagination positively. This cannot happen when people are burdened with constant worry about increasing energy costs and health consequences. This increase in creative thinking would result in more jobs.

I know we have enormous levels of national debt. I also know that money can be found when the will is there.

All of the above would be a massive investment in our people and our own resources – a massive investment with an immense return.

Why can this not be done? – Yours, etc,




Co Galway.

Sir, – Una Mullally makes some very sweeping generalisations and accusations about supposed “intentional, sexist bias” on Irish radio (“Women need to raise the volume on radio exclusion”, Opinion & Analysis, September 8th).

In particular, she makes reference to “gender imbalance” on Today FM. As Ireland’s most popular entertainment-based radio station, Today FM has always provided equal opportunities to new and experienced broadcasters, on the basis of merit and ability. Over the course of 17 years, the station has encouraged and developed new broadcasting talent, right across the spectrum of skills required for a national commercial station, regardless of gender.

The most recent programming recruits in Today FM have been primarily female. This is alongside frontline female presenters who have been here for many years and a full female line-up of news anchors. Furthermore, women are the primary producers across all of our main shows on weekdays and at weekends and have a major influence on our output.

Regarding our supposed gender imbalance, Ms Mullaly correctly points out that the majority of our primetime presenters are male. Contrary to her view, this is not “sexist bias” at play. It is a function of broadcasters, regardless of gender, winning and holding the support of audiences every day, through the connection that they have established with listeners. This is what has made Today FM the most popular radio station in the country, particularly amongst women under 45.

Ms Mullally would do well to look at her own newspaper before commenting erroneously on the radio sector. A simple analysis of 65 bylined articles in Monday’s edition of your newspaper shows that just 13 were by women. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,

Today FM,

Digges Lane, Dublin 1.

Sir, – Frank McNally in his Irishman’s Diary of September 4th and his commentator PN Corish are probably too young to remember correctly the Dublin paper boys’ cries.

In my youth, the date of which I will not disclose, the cry started with “Hairdle a Mayell”. It then broadened to include an upstart to become “Hairdle a Mayell Evenan Pressss”.

With the passage of time it became “Hairdle a Mayell a Press”. After the unlamented death of the “Mayell” it was shortened to “Hairdle a Press” later “Hairapress”, not “Herpes”. This is how false legends are born. For shame! – Yours, etc,


Upper Glenageary Road,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir,– In the early 1960s a paperboy called a veritable litany outside St Augustine’s church on Sunday mornings: “Press, Independent, People, Express, Review, Times — paypur!” – Yours, etc,



Dublin 18.

Sir, – Not a street cry but a Saturday night pub call – “Press, Indo, Tribune, Wordild!” – Yours, etc,


Grattan Lodge,

Hole in the Wall Road,

Dublin 13

Sir, – As someone who grew up living above my father’s barber shop in Dublin’s Mary Street, we were all very familiar with the cries from the family of newspaper sellers who for three generations sold evening newspapers outside our front door. Now, unfortunately, the cries of the independent newspaper sellers have been replaced with the cry of the illegal cigarette and tobacco sellers – “Bacco!” – Yours, etc,


Goatstown Road,

Dublin 14.

Sir, – My 23-year-old brother has rented an apartment in Dublin over the past two years. His contract was due to be renewed when the landlord informed him that the rent was going to be increased by €250 per month “in line with changes in the market”. Have we learned nothing about controlling a volatile property sector?

In France and other EU countries there are strict limits on increases in rent for existing tenants precisely to prevent this market taking on a mind of its own.

Our precariously perched economy can only take so many hits and it doesn’t help that regulatory bodies have once again seemingly excused themselves from responsibility. – Yours, etc,


McDara Road,



Sir, – Padraig J O’Connor (September 8th) is right to be irritated by the number of broken biscuits in a packet these days. But equally annoying is the design of these packets. Most are impossible to open without taking a knife to them and those that can be easily unwrapped have their perforations almost a third of the way down. Hence, when opened, the required one biscuit does not appear, but four or more tumble out onto the table or the floor, and break! It drives me crackers. – Yours, etc,


Redford Park,

Greystones, Co Wicklow.

Sir, – You report that, according to Department of Transport research, speed cameras saved 71 lives in the past three years (September 6th).

Can you inform us whether or not the Department of Transport has notified those fortunate individuals, and congratulated them on their survival? They might wish to show their appreciation; perhaps by sponsoring the speed camera involved for a period of five years or so. – Yours, etc,




Dublin 16.

Sir, – The obituary of Rita Moynihan (August 23rd) errs in its reference to the “Aghabullogue team that won the first All-Ireland in 1884”. Aghabullogue took the title in 1890, three years after Thurles became the first winning team. – Yours, etc,


Model Farm Road,


Irish Independent:

It has been implied in certain quarters that the economic boom and bust of the past ten years is related to the fact that the Dail is 85pc male.

It’s worth pointing out that in 2010 in Britain the Labour Party government had 98 female members out of a total of 355 MPs, ie was 27pc female.

This was in keeping with party policy, which since 1997, has been deliberately aimed at greatly increasing the percentage of its MPs who are female. Nevertheless, the UK has had similar economic ups and downs to our own during the same ten-year period (2004 to the present). This does not suggest that the mere fact of having considerably more female members of parliament results in a better quality of public representative or a better quality of decision-making on public policy.

As for the way in which Dail candidates are selected, we can be sure that, quotas or otherwise, the criteria for the selection of female candidates will be the same as for their male counterparts, ie having the right connections, having the right views and being willing to toe the party line when required. This is not a recipe for having a better quality of public representative.

Surely the answer to having a better quality of public representative (and, by extension, better decision-making at national level) is to have a political system that encourages people of the right calibre, regardless of gender, etc, to put themselves forward for selection in the reasonable expectation that they will be selected, and not to be obsessed with extraneous matters such as ‘balance’, whether in relation to gender or otherwise, which have no bearing on the quality of individual candidates?

Hugh Gibney, Castletown, Athboy, Co Meath

Hate poisons Israeli situation

Is Ted O’Keeffe (‘Israel should look to itself’, September) suggesting that the Israeli ambassador to Ireland “promptly takes himself off to Palestine and help promote [democratic values] … particularly among that particular groups of his fellow men who are clearly not familiar with such notions as applying to their neighbours” among the Arab population? If he is then perhaps he should recall that on September 12, 2005, Israel withdrew Gaza, leaving industrial buildings, factories, and greenhouses intact to provide a basis for its economic development. Within days these were destroyed by those whose blind hatred of anything Israeli overrode any benefit they might have had from it.

This is by no means an isolated incident but, on the contrary, typical of its knee-jerk reactions to anything Israel may do or say, as is clear from the rioting and destruction after the murder of an Arab youth by a mentally-deranged Jew last July. That the culprit was apprehended by the Israeli police within days did nothing to calm the situation, which continues to flair up. Somehow I fear that ambassador Boaz will have little influence on these people and I suggest Mr O’Keeffe investigate other avenues to make them familiar with “respect for democracy, for dialogue and hospitality”.

Martin D Stern, Salford, England

President’s visit an irrelevancy

Wasn’t there something incongruous about a visit by President Michael D Higgins to homeless families in Dublin?

Here is a man on a salary of €250,000 a year, living in a mansion with servants and drivers, sent to console those who have nothing and who have been abandoned by the state he represents.

What was achieved by the visit? Apart from highlighting the great divide between those who are cushioned by the state and those on the margins looking in? As a nation we have lost our sense of outrage.

John Leahy, Wilton Road, Cork

Beware the other risen people

I notice that history is never mentioned in debate re the coming Scottish Independence referendum. The Scots are Celts; the English are Anglo-Saxons.

This may seem totally irrelevant and even in bad taste in this enlightened day and age, but blood is thicker than water. The English were never invited in. I suspect Burns’ gut feeling of righteous resentment still runs deep in many Scottish hearts, and will surface and prove a telling factor on polling-day.

Sean McElgunn, Belcoo, Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh

The fight against suicide

Recently, the Samaritans introduced a new freephone number (116123). Many people with mobile devices use Skype or other web-based phone facilities. These can not contact the new Samaritans number. Would it be simple to set up a Skype contact for access over the web? This is a more modern method for making calls, especially for younger people. Ease of making such a contact must be vital in combating the terrible affliction of suicide.

Brendan Chapman, Booterstown, Co Dublin

Hanafin incriminates herself

Mary Hanafin is correct to conclude the electorate are “absolutely not ready” to put Fianna Fail back in Government (September 8). But perhaps she should apply the same logic to her own ambitions and explain why they should be prepared to put her back in the Dail after her role in the destruction and misery caused by the governments of which she was a member?

Why does she think that the electorate should reject her party, but elect her? It’s a bit rich of Ms Hanafin to accuse her colleagues of “looking after their own seats” when she comes out with this kind of self-serving waffle.

Barry Walsh, Clontarf, Dublin 3

Islam and Irish schools

I totally agree with Ian O’Doherty’s article on Mr Selim’s “suggestions” for concessions to accommodate Muslim students in our schools. Mr O’Doherty is voicing the concerns of many people in Ireland – and kudos to him for having the courage to express them!

We have to address these issues more openly and realised that the term “racist” is very often used by the intolerant themselves to stifle any reasonable debate.

Our too-liberal government would do well to read this article, too.

G Byrne, Co Wicklow

Coveney must tackle Coillte

Shane Phelan reports that Coillte, a commercial State company operating under the auspices of the Minister for Agriculture has refused to disclose the remuneration of the acting chief executive, even to the Government.

Surely this an instance of the board of Coillte not seeing the wood for the trees. There is an overriding obligation on all State bodies to act transparently as public entities. The guidelines for State bodies states explicitly and unequivocally that there is a requirement for the chairman and boards of all State bodies to implement government pay policy in relation to the total remuneration of the chief executive, or equivalent. How can this be demonstrated to the public, in this instance, from a posture of contrived clandestine secrecy?

The acting chief executive of Coillte has been an employee since 1992 and held this acting role since March 2013. The audit and risk committee of Coillte includes a board member appointed by the Minister in 2010 after his retirement as Assistant Secretary General of the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine.

Does public trust not demand that Minister Simon Coveney elicit this information and see that it is placed in the public domain as a demonstration of coherent, consistent and transparent corporate governance?

Myles Duffy, Glenageary, Co Dublin

Irish Independent

Out and about

September 9, 2014

9 September 2014 Out and About

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A sunny but cool day. I potter around go to the Bank the Co op and the Post Office. Meg rings

Mary’s back not much better today, pie for tea and her back pain is still there.


Professor Dame Julia Polak – obituary

Professor Dame Julia Polak was a pathologist whose own health problems led her to research growing new organs from stem cells

Professor Dame Julia Polak

Professor Dame Julia Polak Photo: Roger Taylor

5:54PM BST 08 Sep 2014


Professor Dame Julia Polak, who has died aged 75, did pioneering work in histochemistry (concerned with the chemical composition of the cells and tissues of the body) and later led research into using stem-cell technology to produce artificial organs for implantation — after she herself had undergone a heart and lung transplant.

She had been working at Harefield Hospital with the eminent surgeon Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub on the reasons for rejection in transplant surgery when she became seriously ill. She had always put her breathlessness down to asthma, but by April 1995 she found breathing so difficult that she was unable to sleep lying down. When she eventually agreed to be examined by a colleague at Hammersmith Hospital, she was found to have severe heart failure caused by pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs) — the very disease that she had been studying in Yacoub’s patients.

Told by Yacoub that she needed a lung transplant, she resisted at first, knowing the risks, but was eventually persuaded that it was her only chance. For nearly two months she waited in intensive care for a suitable donor to be found. The call came at 2am on a weekend visit home. She was rushed into Harefield Hospital, where Yacoub performed a “domino transplant” — replacing her heart and lungs with those of a donor and transplanting her heart into another patient.

As with many transplant patients, her recovery was impeded by infection and rejection, but after three months her condition began to stabilise. Once she was on her feet again, Julia Polak made it her life’s work to find an alternative, more reliable, solution for people with incurable lung disease.

She decided to redirect her research to “tissue engineering”, with the aim of using stem cells to grow new tissue and organs — work which, if successful, could help to offset the shortage of donor organs and overcome the problem of rejection. Two months after her operation she set up the Julia Polak Lung Transplant Fund and subsequently founded the Imperial College Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Centre, becoming its Professor in 1997.

In 2004 she announced that she and her team had succeeded in growing brain and lung tissue by manipulating embryonic stem cells, using a process that converts the cells into mature small-airway epithelial cells, which line the part of the lung where oxygen is absorbed and carbon dioxide is excreted. Their achievement has raised hopes that before long it might be possible to create a functioning “lung” for regenerative purposes, using a man-made scaffold for the tissue to grow around.

Memorably, Julia Polak produced her own diseased lungs for inspection at a demonstration at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School at Hammersmith Hospital, where she was a professor. “My lungs were not of any use so I studied them,” she recalled matter-of-factly, but she observed that they were the “worst case” of pulmonary hypertension she had ever seen.

Her experiences inspired a novel, Intensive Care, by Rosemary Friedman, published in 2001 to raise funds for research on tissue repair and regeneration. Julia Polak was delighted with her fictional depiction: “It is so funny, my character has been transformed into a tall and leggy doctor,” she said. “You should see me. I am short and fat.”

At the time of her death Julia Polak was one of the world’s longest-surviving lung transplant patients.

Julia Margaret Polak was born on June 26 1939 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where her Jewish grandparents had emigrated from Eastern Europe to escape persecution. After qualifying in Medicine at the University of Buenos Aires in 1961, she decided to specialise in pathology; and in 1968, with her husband and fellow doctor Daniel Catovsky (who would himself achieve eminence as a world authority on chronic adult leukaemias) and their first child, she moved to Britain to do graduate studies at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School at Hammersmith Hospital. She eventually became head of the Histochemistry department and Professor of Endocrine Pathology at the medical school (now part of Imperial College, London).

Julia Polak was one of the first researchers to demonstrate the existence of a hormone system in the gut, and she identified the cellular origins of several hormones in the internal organs. She was also part of the team that discovered how nitric oxide is made in cells throughout the body and helps the cells communicate with each other .

She moved on to lungs in the mid-1980s, after discovering that the gut and the lung have a similar cell structure. Needing lung tissue to work on, she approached Magdi Yacoub, to see if he was interested in collaborating. It was the beginning of a close working relationship, and Yacoub would become a prominent member of her team at the Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine Centre.

The author of some 1,000 original papers, 115 review articles and editor or author of 25 books, Julia Polak was one of the most widely cited researchers in her field. She served on several national and international tissue engineering and stem cell advisory panels, and was the European editor of the journal Tissue Engineering.

She was appointed DBE in 2003.

Julia Polak is survived by her husband and by two sons. A daughter, Marina, a barrister, was killed by a motorcyclist while crossing a road in London in 2011. Her mother took some comfort from the fact that before her death Marina had signed up to the organ donor scheme, and as a result improved the lives of five people by donating her organs.

Professor Dame Julia Polak, born June 26 1939, died August 11 2014


Yes and No supporters in the Grassmarket, Edinburgh Yes and No supporters in the Grassmarket, Edinburgh. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Living as a Scotsman in Ireland I am following the referendum debate as best I can (Report, 1 September). However, one thing strikes me about the whole debate. The argument, for or against, seems to revolve around money and finance in one form or another. Here in Ireland, as the country gears up to celebrate its failed attempt at independence in 1916, where its leaders are near martyrs, it got me thinking what their take on our selfish debate would be. Perhaps one of them might have penned a letter such as this from his prison cell the night before his execution …

“Dear voter, So, how have you woken up the morning after? Have you woken in shame? Have you followed Alistair Darling? Did you put yourself first? Justifying your treasonous act by wanting to believe that independence would come at a personal cost. A cost in blood and tears, in splattered brains and torn sinew, crushed bone and broken hearts, like nearly every other country on the face of the Earth had to endure for independence. No? At what cost then? At best a few pounds in your pocket. Shame on you.

“Listen to them starting to turn, creaking slowly, before starting to spin- in their graves – all those heroes over all those centuries, from all those countries who had to wage war to raise their own flag, sing their own song. My God, all you had to do was get out your warm bed, and make a cross on a piece of paper. Shame on you if you voted no. It’s not about money. It’s about being us, standing on our own two feet, being in charge of our own destiny, making our own decisions. Who knows we might even take to the sports field with pride for once. It’s about being bloody Scottish not British. So how will you waken up the next morning? With your head held high, I hope.”
Martin Loomes
Galway, Ireland

• Next week, Scotland’s voice will be heard all over the world. People from all walks of life will express themselves about over how they feel about their country’s immediate future. Such a strong national identity, powerful cultural heritage, endless natural resources, as well as a strong labour force can only lead in one direction. Do not be afraid of change, any change for the better brings maturity and within maturity one reaches improvement and self-balance.

The world will be watching you, a proud nation that was driven to the loss of liberty by a bunch of lords who did not pay any attention to the peoples’ real needs. That was in 1707. Now, the time is different; in 2014 all Scots, and those feeling Scottish at heart, are sensible and hopeful enough to freely decide their destinies. On the one hand to be ruled by a body that does not fulfil vital needs, since it doesn’t show consideration or predisposition for improving the standards of living in Scotland. Or, on the other hand, to have the golden chance to be yourself: a free, independent and respected individual with a capacity to make decisions which would benefit your country and its inhabitants.

Now is the time to see the light; to see things right, to set things right. Think positively and you will get endless rewards. Scotland deserves the best. It is too proud a nation to be left as a mere “English territory” with a limited capacity of decision-making. Actually, I am in love with this country, so one only expects the best to happen. Do not disappoint the world, but, above all, be fair and love yourself.
Marta Vallbona
Glasgow and Barcelona

• Simon Jenkins says, “I would vote yes because the no campaign has offered merely stasis” (Comment, 5 September). Scotland would not be the first to become a country independent from Britain and succeed. Many former colonies have gone their own way. Trinidad and Tobago (my country of origin) became independent in1962 and a republic run entirely by its own polyethnic citizens. It set up its own central bank, printed its own currency and saw its GDP rise exponentially during the five decades of its freedom. Its GDP per capita now stands at over £11,000; higher than any continental Latin American country. Its unemployment rate is 3.6% and the population is a mere 1.25 million. Scotland should vote yes and leap out of stasis.

Dr Louis Quesnel


• Dear Scotland, I fear it’s too late, and you’ve decided, but really I would prefer that you didn’t leave the union. I speak as a Brit who doesn’t want to be reduced to being an Englishman. You won’t understand this because you’ve always been happy within your Scottish skin. This is my problem – I can hear you say it – and I’ll get used to it in time, that’s true, and who knows, maybe I’ll even look upon the cross of Saint George as something other than a stranger, but I’ll feel diminished. You may not feel British, but equally I don’t feel entirely English. I’m bigger than that – you, the Welsh and the Northern Irish make me feel bigger than that.

It’s possible that what you think of as Englishness is something that I also don’t recognise. I’m not posh. I didn’t go to private school. I believe in social justice. I don’t vote Tory. I don’t patronise the Celts, or anyone else. I try to be a good citizen, I don’t want to leave Europe (that’s two unions I support). What you rail against, I rail against. Together we are better able to fight the forces of conservatism – the conservatism that has been foisted upon me as it has upon you – the poll tax, the bedroom tax, the sneering supercilious superiority of an unrepresentative elite. The governments you didn’t vote for are the governments I didn’t vote for. Together we are brothers and sisters; apart we’re citizens of different countries.

You’ll still be there, where you have always been, but it will still feel like I’ve been divorced in a process in which I wasn’t allowed a say – which I guess is why I’m writing. You’ve moved on, you need to find yourself, be your own country. But can we not be reconciled? Can we not yet find common ground?

I had always regarded the union (us) as something of an obstreperous, slightly dysfunctional but ultimately common family. Did we take your for granted? Is the only answer to go our separate ways? I guess that’s what I find so difficult. For me it’s about the future that we can make together, not the past. If you can’t, we’re done for, I accept that. But if you can, let us work together to make the union a better place for all of us. Every one of us. Give it another shot. Don’t give up on us now.
Geoff Cordell

• I have started the petition “Scotland – please don’t leave us, we need you”, and wanted to ask if you could add your name, too. The Scottish referendum means a lot to all of us in the UK. We might just be about to tear up 300 years of successful coexistence. Signing this petition is one way of expressing our feelings in favour of a no vote – especially for those who cannot vote. Even if we cannot vote we can still send a message of support. You can read more and sign the petition at:
Ginnie Cumming

• The Scots will vote yes. And the rest of us will owe them a debt of gratitude. Their vote will send symbolically, in the only effective way our current democratic system permits, these messages to all our politicians. We want, not a change of government, but a change of politics.

You lack the competence to run the country; and the vision to lead it. You lied to us and deceived us, into an illegal war with disastrous consequences. You cheated and stole from us; and those of you who didn’t, allowed it to happen. A privileged, privately educated 7% permanently hold 30%-73% of positions of power. Our representative democracy entrenches a profoundly unrepresentative power structure it is not empowered to change. This privileged power elite are not held accountable or punished for their venality, incompetence or mistakes, as we are in our jobs and daily lives. We are justly proud of our NHS and the inspirational ideals that underpin it. We want those principles preserved, enhanced and funded, not undermined by subversive privatisation.

So, good luck to you Scotland. We respect your courage and admire your confidence.
Keith Farman
St Albans

• I read with a sinking heart the piece by the normally wise Deborah Orr (Debate has intoxicated Scotland, 5 September). How can so-called progressives have become so bewitched by a nationalist movement? Is it simply enough for them that this movement says it hates the current UK government?

There are plenty of people north of the border-that-isn’t-really-a-border (yet) that will mourn the loss of Great Britain, which should be some comfort to Jonathan Freedland after his nuanced reflection (If Britain loses Scotland, 5 September); people who are glad that two previously sovereign but constantly warring and mutually slaughtering nations decided, a little over 300 years ago, to form a new country to leave the worst of their pasts behind. Is it progress to resurrect earlier, narrower identities?

As for the point about this being about “democracy” because Scotland gets Tories it never voted for, would the same progressives accept the decision of the Kingdom of Wessex to secede in the event of a Labour government because, a few pockets apart, they didn’t vote that way? Take this logic to its extreme and one has no polity at all, only 63 million individuals who share nothing.

Orr also confuses pragmatism and realism for apathy: the UK’s system of government is not perfect. But can anyone point to one that is? I, and many others, will proudly vote “No, thanks” not because we believe that we live under perfection but because we believe, fervently, in our polity stretching from Catihness to Cornwall, from Canterbury to Caernarfon and Cookstown, and all varied and valued places in between. Its evolution can, and should, continue, but independence for Scotland will mark its destruction.
Alastair Deighton
Perth, Scotland

Members of English Scots for Yes at the border between Scotland and England at Berwick-upon-Tweed Members of English Scots for Yes hold a tea party at the border between Scotland and England, just north of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

Simon Jenkins is not Scottish but it is extremely mean of him to write about “expatriate Scots who have no intention of returning home but who enjoy telling Scotland its business from the fleshpots of London” (A yes vote will produce a leaner, meaner Scotland, 5 September). The huge issue of independence or not for our much-loved country is not only for people who live in Scotland, it is for all Scottish people who live in the UK. We are all passionate about Scotland and its future. We did not emigrate. Scotland is still part of the UK. Most Scots moved to other parts of the UK for job reasons, some of their own volition, others posted south by Scottish companies, eg the big banks.

And who is Jenkins to say that we have no intention of returning home? If he became editor of the Scotsman and went to live in Edinburgh, would he be pleased to relinquish his right to vote on English matters? Scots who live and work in other parts of the UK are as Scottish as anybody who lives in Scotland and “more Scottish” than the large numbers of English people and foreign nationals who are entitled to vote because they do live there and are on the electoral register. Alex Salmond’s motives in setting up the vote in this way are open to question and are, in the least, narrow-minded, inward-looking and parochial. Whatever the outcome, I say the vote will not be valid because a large number of Scottish people have been disenfranchised against their will.
David Forrester Mitchell
Maidenhead, Berkshire

• As a Scot who has lived in England for 30 years, I don’t recognise myself – or most others I know in similar circumstances – in Simon Jenkins’ description of “expatriate Scots who have no intention of returning home”. As with many living on “this” side of the border who have no voice in the referendum but would, given the opportunity, vote no’ on September 18, I have no aversion to living in Scotland in future, but have no need to return “home”, and definitely do not see myself as an “expatriate” as I never left my patria! My home country is the UK: moving from Scotland to England was no more consequential to my sense of self or of citizenship than moving from Glasgow to Edinburgh or from Guildford to Godalming. I consider myself at home on both sides of the river Tweed.

Jenkins plays fast and loose with the evidence for a declining sense of Britishness among the Scots. Far from showing a collapse in identification with Britain north of the border, the evidence consistently shows a comfortable majority of Scots have a subtler and more realistic sense of national identity than the crude either/or choice of “British or Scottish” implied in the article. When offered the chance to choose a purely Scottish, a purely British, or a mixed identity, around two thirds of those living in Scotland describe themselves as British and Scottish. It is the purists – those who see themselves as “only Scottish” or “only British” – who are in the minority. Voters in Scotland will have their say on 18 September and the result will fall where it will, that’s democracy. But let’s not reduce a complex debate to a crude “Scot or not” dichotomy which helps no one.
Professor Charles Pattie

• Jonathan Freedland writes about “Scots voting”. Deborah Orr is more careful and calls the voters “people of Scotland” and “voters in Scotland”. Please, do not give the impression that it is Scots who are voting. I am a Scot, one of many living outside Scotland. I was born there, educated there and my parents lived there until they died. I have no vote. No Scots living outside their own country have a vote, and there are many of us all over the world. We care about Scotland and hope the voters there will make sure they do the right thing for the country we love, on behalf of Scots in the UK, for Scots worldwide, and for all the people of the UK.
Dian Montgomerie Elvin
Witney, Oxfordshire

A section of the BP ETAP (Eastern Trough Area Project) oil platform in the North Sea, 100 miles east of Aberdeen, Scotland. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty

We have viewed the report by N-56 (22 August) on the potential for unconventional oil and gas extraction from the Kimmeridge Clay in the North Sea using fracking and we agree this has significant potential. Using the technology there is potential to double the reserve base of the North Sea, bringing in an additional £300bn from Scottish waters. While there are still economic and technological challenges to overcome, it is also true that 10 years ago no one predicted the shale gas revolution that has transformed the economic fortunes of North America. Offshore fracking also has the advantage of being far less invasive and challenging to society. Once again we see how the ingenuity of the oil exploration community continues to add huge potential resources to proven reserves. We can look forward to a long future of oil and gas wealth from the North Sea.
Professor John Howell Chair in geology & petroleum geology, University of Aberdeen; Alex Russell Professor of petroleum accounting Peter Strachan Professor of energy policy, Aberdeen Business School at Robert Gordon University

• George Monbiot’s scathing depiction of the English oligarchy does not support his inference that Scotland would be better out of the UK (Comment, 3 September). The interest rate decisions of the monetary policy committee are not the only influences on the currency which the SNP plans to share with the rump UK. The Treasury, the banks and City institutions all play a part. Achieving political independence is not the same as gaining economic independence.

A separate Scotland would lose the manifold political and business influences its representatives can exert on the shared currency. Many Greeks, Portuguese and other Europeans would no doubt refer the Scots to Keynes’s aphorism: “He who controls the currency controls the country.” Relieved of moderating pressures from within the UK framework, the oligarchs would probably have more control over Scotland’s economy than they do at present.
Bryn Jones

A pro-independence supporter holds a Enjoying the benefit of the bounce? Would Scotland get a joyful boost from its independence – even on the sports field? Photograph: Andy Buchanana/AFP/Getty

A factor overlooked in most political discussion is what we might call “national bounce”. It runs deeper than, and is often responsible for, other things such as the economy and national harmony. We see it in Germany, the country that lost and was wrecked by the second world war but which is now the most influential country in Europe. The Germans have bounce. Britain appears to have lost its national bounce. We try to compensate with Olympics, football or The X Factor but distractions do not compensate for the lost bounce of the people as a whole.

We are no longer together in national excitement. If, however, Scotland becomes independent a massive surge in national bounce, from day one for an exciting country, will overcome the niggling trivia of economic forecasting from the less-inspiring politicians and pontificators. In a short time the new Scotland will likely find itself faced with eager immigration from English people who are bored with the dreary and pretentious economomania of many of our leaders.
Ian Flintoff

David Cameraon at the Nato summit at Celtic Manor Hotel, Newport, Wales, Britain Gulp … Scottish independence would mean much (and less) for David Cameron. Photograph: Rex Features

Those like Jonathan Freedland (Comment, 6 September) who are surprised at the possibility that the Scots may actually vote yes could usefully read Norman Davies’s book Vanished Kingdoms, The History of Half-Forgotten Europe. The conclusion from this study is that seemingly immutable countries, empires etc can disintegrate a) when least expected and b) with remarkable speed. Watch this space.
Alisdair McNicol
Wallasey, Merseyside

• It seems that David Cameron may exceed his wildest dreams in his agenda to reduce the size of the state: the secession of Scotland would indeed reduce the state for which he is responsible, trumping the sum of all the previous cuts to welfare and sales of state assets. It looks as though it is just those cuts, accompanied by manoeuvres to privatise health and education, that could tip the balance in favour of a yes vote.
Daphne Sanders
Preston, Lancashire

• If the Scots vote for independence, David Cameron’s legacy will be that he was the prime minister who took the Great out of Great Britain, the United out of United Kingdom, and the Union out of Union Jack.
Rachel Carter

• I’m a naturalised British citizen with a UK passport, but am neither English, Scots nor Welsh. In the event of a break-up of the UK (which would make me very sad) do I get to choose, or is there a default position?
Marcia Heinemann

• In response to the latest opinion polls on Scottish independence, it seems the three main Westminster party leaders are about to announce the possibility of a federal UK. Oh, yes please, bring it on. And if it happens, thank you, Scotland.
John Marriott
North Hykeham, Lincoln

• When Yugoslavia disintegrated, Macedonia became FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). So If Scotland votes for independence, will England, Wales and Northern Ireland have to be FUK?
Dimitri Kissoff


The experiences of your correspondents (“I’m burnt out after three years of 70 hours a week”, 6 September) will be familiar to teachers all over the country.

My daughter has just resigned after more than 20 years’ teaching in the secondary sector. Conscientious and creative, described as “outstanding” at inspections, she would not compromise her standards and became, like so many others, disillusioned and burnt out.

Like your correspondent “Socrates”, as a parent I am relieved that she has left, but sad because all those pupils she would have inspired in the future will never know her.

The daughter of friends, also outstanding, has recently resigned from her primary school for the same reasons. My brother, a much-respected primary head, is about to take early retirement, tired of all the unacceptable changes. What a loss to the profession such great teachers are.

I retired from teaching in further education 10 years after the sector was taken from the control of LEAs and colleges became PLCs. My pay was frozen because I refused to sign a new contract which did not limit weekly teaching hours. I watched as colleagues suffered under the strain; many left because they could not or would not teach on those conditions. A student once told me that I was the only teacher who had any time for him; I pointed out that this was literally true.

Earning the same in 2003 as I had in 1993 has meant that my pension is smaller than it would have been, but I don’t regret it; teaching is not about money.

And thank you, Michael Rosen, for saying that the powers-that-be should  leave education to teachers, “who know better how  to do it”.

Christina Jones

Retford, Nottinghamshire

Avoid messy divorce with Scotland

It is bad enough that Scotland wants a divorce, but it is worse that the UK wants a messy one, as it does not want any currency union with Scotland.

Given that Scotland and England have a shared history that goes back 300 years, and given that 51 per cent of Scottish voters now want independence, any long-term solution would have to include some sort of economic mechanism to ensure that these historical ties are preserved. What better way to maintain these ties than to bind the two countries together via a currency union?

With currency union, an independent Scotland would remain, albeit nominally, a part of the UK. Without it, it will be like any other foreign country. The currency union between Scotland and the rest of the UK could work overwhelmingly in the interest of both countries

Randhir Singh Bains

Gants Hill, Ilford


If the Scots vote Yes, perhaps the rest of us may be allowed a referendum to vote on whether they should be allowed to participate in a currency union. I suspect that rejection of the Union and the probable resulting turmoil in the currency and financial markets following such a vote would leave very few favourably disposed to underwriting Alex Salmond’s project.

J R Whelan

Bebington, Wirral

It seems surprising that no one so far has mentioned the enormous amount that would have to be spent to build or rent Scottish embassies and consulates all over the world – and to staff them. Do the potential Yes voters realise this?

Trevor Baker

London N3

As I sat watching the sun set at an unreasonable 7.30pm, it struck me that if Scotland became independent, it could have its own time zone to enable farmers to greet their cattle in daylight and children to go safely to school.

Then the remaining bit of the UK could adopt double summer time and have the benefits of extended evenings that the rest of Europe enjoys. One positive for the Yes vote, from an English perspective.

John Nichols

Colchester, Essex

Could an independent Scotland be persuaded  to take Northern Ireland with it?

Robert Davies

London SE3

Recognise that pupils are all different

One reason why more older children have limited reading skills (“Literacy crisis makes for uneasy reading”, 8 September) is that their early exposure to the education system, with all its pressures, has made learning more of a struggle.

When starting school, a load of four- to five-year-olds are put together in one class and treated as if they’re the same, but they develop at different rates.

Some perfectly bright individuals have difficulty with fine motor skills, so holding a pen or pencil is hard. Others can’t really begin to grasp reading and writing until they’re seven or eight because that’s simply when the relevant part of their brain has matured sufficiently.

There’s nothing wrong with children who can’t catch on to formal lessons right away – whether it’s not recognising their letters or being unable to draw shapes – but despite this, they are often labelled as “special needs”, and such morale-sapping failure to meet expectations, at such a young age, puts many youngsters off education for life. They develop a fear of learning or are fed up with trying to learn.

Emilie Lamplough

Trowbridge, Wiltshire

Your otherwise sound exposé of child illiteracy made no mention of the vital work put in by local libraries, with their Reading Challenge and other excellent programmes, in promoting children’s reading. Our libraries have taken an appalling series of hits in the cuts imposed since 2010 – yet another facet of the Cameron gang’s new serfdom, in which literacy is reserved for People Like Us.

Richard Humble


Yes, there is life outside London

David Lister (6 September) wrote a coherent and compelling plea to artists such as Kate Bush to recognise that not just London is eager for its shot of concerts and culture. So please could The Independent’s Radar practise what it preaches.

Instead of three pages of London cinema listings, please bring back a smattering of publicity for good cinemas throughout the UK. You might even include those in Scotland before they want nothing to do with the rest of us.

Maggie Humphreys

Allerton, Liverpool


Russia has reasons for its actions in Ukraine

Russia’s bloodless annexation of Crimea was in accord with the genuinely overwhelming support of the population of Crimea. Despite this, the West has been screaming for sanctions against Russia.

Contrast Russia’s action with that of Israel – Israel has been seizing Palestinian land illegally over a long period, against the wishes of the Palestinians, ignoring UN resolutions and killing hundreds in the process. Where are the sanctions against Israel?

The US has a long history of conspiring to overthrow governments of which it disapproved (never mind if that government was democratically elected), sometimes installing a ruthless dictator.

How much of the removal of the democratically elected pro-Russian president of Ukraine was due to US and European interference?

If Russia annexes part of eastern Ukraine, that too may be in accord with the wishes of the people there. Ukraine was part of Russia for hundreds of years – Kiev was once the capital of Russia. Many famous Russians were born in Ukraine, and many people in Ukraine regard themselves as Russian. There needs to be some recognition of this.

Ron Watts

King’s Lynn, Norfolk

‘Sans-culottes’  did have trousers

The sans-culottes of the French Revolution to whom John Lichfield refers, in his article “Revenge of ‘les sans dents’” (6 September) on Valérie Trierweiler’s memoir of François Hollande, could be seen as ancestors of Hollande’s “sans-dents”.

But they were known as sans-culottes not because they were “trouserless”, but because they wore trousers (pantalons) rather than aristocratic breeches (culottes).

Peter Cogman

Shirley, Southampton

Momentous news: another Royal baby

I was listening to a fluent, impassioned speech on BBC News by the General Secretary of the TUC on the subject of the gross inequalities of the British class system.

Suddenly, the announcer cut in to deliver the momentous news that the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant.

This was then followed by a long analysis of this great event by various journalistic royal-watchers, and Frances O’Grady’s excellent and important contribution to the national debate was forgotten.

Only in England!

Chris Payne

Lipa City, Batangas, Philippines

The news that William and Catherine are expecting yet another child suddenly makes the prospect of a long flight to one of the outer planets seem quite enticing.

Andrew McLuskey

Stanwell, Staines


Is it Conservative policy that some people and some parts of the UK should be written off?

Sir, Matthew Parris’s article “Tories should turn their backs on Clacton” (Sept 6) is an elegant description of the Conservatives’ mindset: some people and some parts of the UK should be written off. It is this perceived mindset, and its influence on the party’s choice of policies and how the latter are implemented, that put me off when the time comes to vote.

I suspect I am not alone.

George Stonier

Dilhorne, Staffs

Nicotine is addictive. Making e-cigarettes prescription-only ‘seems a sensible option’

Sir, As a respiratory consultant for more than 20 years I have witnessed first-hand the misery and premature death caused by cigarette smoking. Both sides of the debate on the use of e-cigarettes make valid points (report, Sept 5, and letter, Sept 6). I agree that e-cigarettes are much less harmful than tobacco and will reduce mortality among smokers. Where I urge caution is in being too liberal in the product’s availability. I worry that we are allowing a highly addictive drug — nicotine — to be marketed and sold. There is a danger of the next generation becoming dependent on e-cigarettes.

Experts assure us that there is no evidence of e-cigarette use leading to tobacco use. Absence of evidence, however, is not proof of no effect.

Yes, encourage current smokers to switch to e-cigarettes, but do not allow the tobacco industry to market an addictive drug with minimal safeguards. Making e-cigarettes only available on prescription seems a sensible option.

Dr JA Roberts

Consultant physician, Royal Hampshire County Hospital

The authorities should take firm and immediate action over the booing of Moeen Ali

Sir, Like Richard Hobson (Sport, Sept 8), I was disappointed by the loud booing of Moeen Ali at the Twenty20 England v India international at Edgbaston. On every other count it was a riveting match, but to see this exciting English cricketer being treated in this way a few miles from where he was brought up left a very sour taste.

Yet the cricketing authorities knew this would happen as Ali was similarly treated at last Tuesday’s international on the same ground. It’s not good enough to turn a deaf ear to completely unacceptable behaviour.

When Ricky Ponting came in for similar treatment a few years ago, the powers that be were quick to take action and Ponting was given the respect he was due. The same should have happened to Moeen Ali.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

House of Lords

Should the number of MPs be cut to enable those remaining in the Commons to have a 10% pay increase?

Sir, The dire state of public finances will not permit any overall increase in spending (“Osborne challenges 10% pay rise for MPs”, Sept 8). Why not, therefore, adopt the standard business response to a challenging economic environment and introduce an efficiency drive? A 10 per cent cut in the number of MPs could add up to an affordable 10 per cent pay increase.

Barry Fox

Brampton, Cambs

Sir, Perhaps the answer is to pay the higher level recommended by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority to newly elected MPs only. This would satisfy the concerns of both sides.

Rob Tooze

Darlington, Co Durham


Battle of Arnhem 

6:57AM BST 08 Sep 2014


SIR – A generation of courageous men and women who endured the trials of a world war is passing with increasing rapidity. Soon they will all be gone. That is why every year I take a group of children to Arnhem in Holland, so that they can hear the stories of a bitter battle told by those who actually fought it.

Last year, at a ceremony in the main cemetery near Arnhem, our school group witnessed a young soldier fainting while on duty. The first to his side was no medic or first-aider. It was an elderly figure, wearing beret and medals, who had leapt from his chair and run 40 yards to help: 92-year-old Arnhem veteran, Johnny Peters. We stood witnessing an act of selflessness and camaraderie, instinctive and undimmed after all these years.

This month is the 70th anniversary of the battle at Arnhem. The last survivors will make one final pilgrimage. Johnny Peters will not be present; sadly, he passed away a few weeks ago. But the qualities of that extraordinary generation, embodied in men like Peters, will live on. Their legacy will endure.

It is a lesson not found in any school curriculum.

Titus Mills
Lymington, Hampshire

Streaming in schools

SIR – Mary Boustead, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, may be an experienced teacher, but she appears to lack logic when she says “The last thing we should do is to divide children into ability sets”.

I would have thought it obvious that if you have very bright children and not so clever children in the same class, much of the teaching is inevitably too slow for one group or too fast for the other. She should look at the example of Eton, where pupils take the Common Entrance exam and go directly into divisions. As the teaching is practical and appropriate, late developers are then able to catch up with their peers.

The obsession with avoiding selection has removed the opportunity for disadvantaged children to succeed, the result being a reduction in social mobility.

Lord Digby
Dorchester, Dorset

Religious tolerance

SIR – Eric Pickles writes that our tradition of British tolerance is something to be proud of, but we should be wary of groups taking advantage of this.

As the great political theorist Karl Popper said, we should exercise “the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”

Therefore, faith groups have not only rights but obligations to ensure that their adherents do not cause harm to anyone else. Each faith community must appreciate that we do not live in a theocracy, but a multi-faith pluralist democracy. The right to practise religion freely is a cornerstone of British democracy, but does not come without its obligations.

Zaki Cooper
Trustee, Council of Christians and Jews
London EC4

In other words

SIR – While I have much sympathy for the views expressed by Christopher Pelly (Letters, September 5) on the use of Latin terminology, he is unwise to challenge the English language on its range of synonyms.

Latin may have at least 15 for the word famous, but English has many more: notable, acclaimed, celebrated, illustrious, famed, lionised, notorious, noteworthy, reputable, renowned, peerless, preeminent, august, eminent, honoured, peerless, exalted, distinguished, well-known, esteemed and legendary, to name but 21.

David Hipshon
Twickenham, Middlesex

SIR – As both a musician and lover of onions, I particularly enjoyed a recent performance of Thomas Tallis’s masterpiece, which was advertised on the poster as Spem in Allium.

Never again will I put my hope in another when I could put it in the trusty onion.

Susan Sturrock
London SW19

Fallen from favour

SIR – A few years ago, Elmbridge was rated the best place to live in Britain; now it doesn’t even make the top thousand.

Was it something I said?

Les Sharp
Elmbridge, Surrey

Unrecorded crime

SIR – I read the story of Lexi the poodle, whose death the police ignored (report, September 5), with interest. The police seem to be at pains to ensure that wherever possible, no crime is recorded.

My son was recently attacked while disembarking from a flight from Croatia at Heathrow. Despite physical evidence of the attack and the willingness of the flight crew to affirm his innocence, the attending police insisted that if he pressed charges both he and the suspect would be detained for at least 24 hours.

As my son had an important business meeting the following day, he decided he could not press charges, and consequently no crime took place.

David Workman

SIR – Those of us who live in the countryside have been aware of a total lack of active police coverage for a number of years, and the situation is getting worse.

In my small farming community, I estimate that in the past 10 weeks more than £100,000 worth of equipment has been stolen by gangs, and the police have shown little interest other than to complete the form on their computer screen.

Neville H Walker
Orton-on-the-Hill, Leicestershire

Street cries

SIR – Doff Hughes (Letters, September 2) should consider himself fortunate that he is only disturbed by construction vehicles.

We live next door to a nursing home which receives regular deliveries plus the odd ambulance and refuse vehicle – all of which beep when reversing. Worse still are those vehicles that emit a dreary repetitive warning – “Stand clear, vehicle reversing”.

Peter Dodd
Tadworth, Surrey

Go bananas

SIR – It would seem that bananas are now good news again, but your leading article did not mention their other quality. They present a wonderful writing surface for a ballpoint pen.

David Faithfull
Cranleigh, Surrey

SIR – My company sells a small X-ray system for the assessment of osteoporotic fracture risk. The radiation dose from one scan is roughly equivalent to eating a single banana. There are benefits from both.

Andrew Thomson
Rugby, Warwickshire

Hop to it: this black basalt rabbit by Sheldon, 1911, is part of the Wedgwood collection  Photo: Wedgwood Museum

6:59AM BST 08 Sep 2014


SIR – The council of the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology would like to voice its strong support for the Art Fund’s Save the Wedgwood Collection appeal.

While there may well be broad appreciation for the collection’s artistic importance, its international significance to post-medieval archaeology is perhaps less well known. The subject’s core areas of interest are the study of such topics as the artefacts of the post-1500 modern world, globalisation and the spread of capitalism. The Wedgwood collection is a vital research resource for all these issues.

Wherever archaeologists work on sites dating to the later 18th and 19th centuries – whether in Britain and Europe or in places as remote as the desert oases of the Persian Gulf – one of the most common and important artefact types we recover are the ceramics produced, or inspired by, Josiah Wedgwood and his successors.

The loss of this research collection would therefore have a devastating impact not just on the artistic heritage of Britain, but also on period research in the humanities internationally.

We hope that your readers will join the SPMA in lending their support to this important cause.

Dr David Caldwell
President, SPMA

SIR – Fraser Nelson’s timely article on the Scottish referendum is to be welcomed.

I am astonished and dismayed that the people of both Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom seem oblivious to the threat to the security of the realm which a Yes vote would constitute.

The arguments to date seem to be focused on finance, health and social issues, while the effect on wider international matters seems largely to have been ignored. A Yes vote represents the greatest threat to the UK since 1940. It would severely damage our international standing, possibly endanger our position on the Security Council, compromise the capability of our Armed Forces and thus affect our contribution to Nato.

Scots have played an integral part in the affairs of Britain, and the world, for the past 300 years, producing several prime ministers, military leaders and world-class scientists and academics. The Nationalists now seem happy to lose their place at the top table of world affairs, and in the course of doing so they will severely compromise the influence of the whole United Kingdom.

Robin Colson

SIR – If it is to succeed, the campaign to save the Union must change course.

It has been a grave mistake to rely almost entirely on economic arguments. There is no way of showing decisively that Scotland would be less prosperous outside the Union. Incessant argument over currency, oil and the provision of public services has led to an unproductive and unseemly wrangle on both sides.

The Unionists must make their case in strong patriotic terms during the days that remain. They must invite the people of Scotland not just to say No to independence, but to say Yes to a new and positive relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom on terms of full equality.

The Scottish Parliament has been promised additional powers. It should be made clear that their conferment will mark the start of work in all parts of the UK to devise a new constitutional settlement that would bind them together on a federal basis. Thus Unionism would acquire the sense of vision it badly needs.

Lord Lexden
London SW1

SIR – Presumably, if Scotland goes independent on September 18, all Scottish Westminster MPs will resign their seats the following day.

John Sabin
Pulborough, West Sussex

SIR – Given the evidence that the Better Together campaign is lagging, there is a sure-fire way to save the Union.

David Cameron and Ed Miliband must fly to Edinburgh and campaign for the Yes side. That will guarantee a No vote.

Harry Fuchs
Flecknoe, Warwickshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – A recurring strawman in the debate about gender quotas in a representative democracy is that our parliamentary system is intended to primarily represent the demographics of a society. It is not.

A representative democracy needs to represent the broadest range of ideas and opinions and with numbers in the debate to roughly mirror those it represents. It must facilitate a publicly accessible environment where these ideas are robustly debated and vigorously contested. Members of the electorate must then be able to openly and without fear of intimidation decide for themselves which viewpoint they wish to support at the ballot box. Does anyone believe that this is what our parliamentary system currently affords us? Is the main fault really with the gender of those doing the debating or is it the ideas being debated?

Is the real problem with the composition of the Oireachtas with the choice on offer at election time (when anyone is free to stand as a candidate) or is it with the mindset of the electorate when making choices? Is one of the problems with candidates that people are unwilling to stand up for their beliefs at election time when there is no certainty that they will be successful? Faint heart never won fair mandate. – Yours, etc,


College Gate,

Townsend Street,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Gender quotas are used not as preferential treatment; rather they are an attempt to remedy problems of deep-rooted male privilege.

The merit argument is often advanced as a reason to oppose gender quotas, ie that the best person for the job should be chosen irrespective of gender. However, all things are not equal. If merit were the only criterion governing the election of politicians, then the Dáil would not be composed of 16 per cent women.

Progress on voluntary gender quotas implementation by the political parties in Ireland has been a dismal failure.

The passing of the Electoral (Political Funding) Act in July 2012 was a recognition by the mostly male Dáil that progress on gender equality would not be advanced without a financial penalty to the political parties.

This problem of gender inequality is not only an issue between men and women but also between progressive men and those men who benefit from the status quo.

Women are by far the biggest group underrepresented in Irish politics. – Yours, etc,


Cork 5050 Group,

Croaghta Park,

Glasheen, Cork.

Sir, – In response to my point that the introduction of gender quotas could result in better candidates losing out to weaker candidates, Anthony Leavy (September 6th) remarks that, “The decisions that contributed to the bankrupting of the country were made by a Dáil which was nearly 90 per cent male” and that “it does not look, therefore, as if the better qualified candidates were always chosen in the past”.

Mr Leavy’s contention that there was a causal link between the gender profile of the Dáil and the bankrupting of the country suffers from a bad case of “reduction fallacy”, recently defined by your columnist David Robert Grimes (“The way we argue now”, August 16th) as “an often misguided attempt to ascribe single causes to outcomes that are in reality complex interplays of many factors”. Dr Grimes pointed out that the “Post hoc ergo propter hoc” (“after this, therefore because of this“) fallacy is used to brilliant comic effect by the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to assert that a drop in the number of global pirates since the 1800s has caused global warming.

While it may well be true that better qualified Dáil candidates were not always chosen in the past (and I look forward to the day when we have more women in politics and put the days of the old boys’ networks and nepotism behind us), I would submit that the performance of the Dáil up to and during the bankruptcy of the State had more to do with the well documented objectively identifiable deficiencies of the Dáil – for example a lack of expertise, groupthink and the whip system – than with its gender profile. – Yours, etc,


Stocking Avenue,


Dublin 16.

Sir, – It is misleading to say that half of our population is somehow disenfranchised because only 15 per cent of TDs are female. Women (and men) are free to vote for whatever candidate they choose. The resulting composition of the Dáil suggests that the gender of the is not their priority – nor do I think it should be. Clumsy attempts to “correct” the electorate by restricting its choice is, like most patronising interference, likely to have unintended and undesirable consequences. – Yours, etc,


Moyclare Close,


Dublin 13.

Sir, – The debate rumbles on about gender equality in Irish politics. Quotas are constantly referred to as a method of achieving this. Surely if there is a genuine desire to have gender equality then the only and best way to achieve this is to have an equal number of seats designated for male and female representatives in all political bodies, including the Dáil.

Voters would simply vote for their male representatives on one ballot paper and vote for their female representatives on a separate ballot paper.

Quotas are for farming and fishing, not for women.

If Irish society is genuine in wanting equality in political representation, then perhaps this suggestion deserves some serious debate.– Yours, etc,


Saval Park Gardens,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – We can be sure that, quotas or otherwise, the criteria for the selection of female candidates will be much the same as for their male counterparts, ie having the right connections, having the right views and being willing to toe the party line when required. This is not a recipe for a better quality of public representative. – Yours, etc,




Co Meath.

Sir, – The chief executive of the Heritage Council, Michael Starrett, referring to Bantry House, rightly draws attention to the economic value of cultural and heritage tourism to the country (September 5th). He might also have added that there is no more economic way for the State of providing attractions than when their private owners open them to visitors. Bantry was the first great house in the State to open its doors like this in the 1940s, and when we visited it last week it was full of Irish, American and continental tourists poring over its fascinating and eclectic contents.

The owners of Bantry House deserve every support in keeping this beautiful place and its collection intact. Places such as Castletown House, Fota, Kilkenny Castle and Malahide Castle have all come into public ownership but are so much less interesting without their original contents. In fact we have now very few heritage properties with their historic contents in place, and compare badly with other countries such as Scotland, where a last-minute campaign saved the remarkable contents of Dumfries House from auction in 2007.

The Headfort House example referred to by Mr Starrett, where the Heritage Council purchased important furniture and left it in situ, would seem the perfect solution for Bantry. While it is clear that the Heritage Council does not at present have the funds to help on this occasion, perhaps Mr Starrett could negotiate with the owners to postpone the auction to see if funds can be raised in some other way. In other countries public appeals are raised to save treasures for the nation, and we are sure such an appeal would get widespread support in this case, not least from the traders of west Cork and Cork County Council.

While it may not be possible to save every heritage property in this country, Bantry House and its contents should be high on any list of priorities. Its treasures, once dispersed, will be lost forever and that would be a great shame. – Yours, etc,



Palmerston Road, Dublin 6.

Sir, – Chris Johns wrote an interesting analysis piece on Scotland, until he hit his last paragraph: “The euro still exists, despite many forecasts to the contrary, because of Europe’s detestation and fear of petty nationalism. There is absolutely nothing about Scottish nationalists that endears them to Europe’s elites. They should expect a very cold welcome in Brussels and Frankfurt” (“Potential for unintended consequences if Scots choose independence”, Business Opinion, September 5th).

Come again? Who suggested the idea of European federation but a Scot, Prof James Lorimer, in 1884? Who was a key member of the convention discussing a European constitution but Lorimer’s successor in the “Law of Nature and of Nations” chair at Edinburgh University but the late Sir Neil MacCormick MEP, son of the founder of the SNP?

Besides, Eurocrats in Brussels will be, unlike Mr Johns, careful whereof they speak: they live cheek by jowl with two “petty nations”, Flanders and Wallonia, far more awkward than us Scots. – Yours, etc,


University of Tübingen,


Wilhelmstrasse 50,


A chara, – It was good and timely of Diarmaid Ferriter (“Hayes’s Hotel where Cusack founded GAA needs saving”, Opinion & Analysis, September 6th) to raise the possibility of the GAA buying Hayes’s Hotel, Thurles, the birthplace of the GAA. After Sunday’s pulsating final – the third of three drawn All-Ireland hurling finals – the financial resources are surely there. Moreover, there are precedents for ventures into unusual territory – in my adopted city of Belfast the National Trust owns one of Belfast’s finest public houses and heritage buildings, the Crown Bar.

A commercial-cum-heritage project on an iconic site in my home town of Thurles would have the further benefit of aiding rural renewal in the region.

Needless to add, as Tipperary are set to reclaim the All-Ireland title in a few weeks, it would be especially fitting that such a decision be made on this the 130th anniversary of the founding of the GAA at Hayes’s Hotel, Thurles, Co Tipperary. – Is mise,


Queen’s University,


Sir, – Many of your readers will be aware of the dearth of church, census and other early records as a result of fire in the Four Courts in 1922. As a student of genealogy at UCD I have spent many pleasurable hours in the National Library of Ireland over the past three years. Recent warnings by Catherine Fahy, acting director of the library, of the crisis looming there and specifically of the absence of a water sprinkler system in the main body of the library, sent shivers down my spine (“National Library at ‘critical point’ as cutbacks hit services”, September 4th).

It is impossible to put a value on the treasures which are held in the National Library of Ireland. Old books, newspapers, personal and estate papers, many containing wills and deeds, chart the history of our country. When first given access to a 17th-century lease of land in my native Tipperary, I commented how valuable this would be considered in say, the National Library of Australia. My husband rightly pointed out that the lease predated the founding of Australia and for that matter the United States of America and Canada! Think about that for a second.

As we approach the centenary of 1916, I can think of no finer nor less controversial tribute to those who died than to invest in this national institution which contains the shared history of millions, not just on these islands , but worldwide. I would urge Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphreys and the Government to heed Ms Fahy’s warnings. – Yours, etc,



Clonskeagh, Dublin 14.

Sir, – Noel Whelan makes a profound statement about what happened to this country when he tells us that “showtime” and “auction politics” ended “when the floor under the Celtic Tiger collapsed with the fiscal and banking crisis in 2008” (“No time for showtime politics in lead-up to budget”, Opinion & Analysis, September 5th).

During the years of the boom the message from many quarters was that everything was getting better and there was virtually no downside. In addition, during the years of the consequent austerity, the message from sometimes the same quarters was that there was no need for all this doom and gloom.

Both messages were wrong.

Now that a “fragile recovery” is being talked about, Mr Whelan is right to warn all not to repeat the “auction politics” messages and “to stay away from the politics of showtime”. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,


Dublin 13.

Sir, – Further to Frank McNally’s “The lost art of paper pushing” (An Irishman’s Diary, September 4th), the custom of newspaper boys calling out their wares in the street has not died out in Ireland.

On a recent visit to Cork I heard the sound of “Eeco” all over the city centre as the “Echo Boys”, as they are known, sold their papers on the streets. A very evocative sound indeed for someone brought up in that city, although I wonder what the tourists make of it. – Yours, etc,




Co Wicklow.

Sir, – All of us from Cork will surely remember the particular call of the Evening Echo boys. It sounded like “Aye yack ooh wah”. – Yours, etc,


Siwanoy Lane,

New Canaan,


Sir, – When I was growing up in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I can well recall that the cry of one particular paper boy who would ply his trade walking the length and breadth of Dún Laoghaire’s George’s Street – a then bustling thoroughfare – was “Heral-a-Mail-or-Prezz”. I can state this without fear of contradiction, for I was that newsboy! – Yours, etc,


Beacon Hill,


Co Dublin.

A chara, – Fergus Finlay’s articulate appeal (September 6th) for Cabinet action to redress the inadequate level of funding at Tusla, the Child and Family Agency, is to be applauded for highlighting a growing concern that children at risk are not being allocated social workers.

Is it possible that a sufficient number of Ministers will take notice of this appeal or is it more likely that the improving fiscal situation will be used to benefit the taxpayer, who, although hard pressed, is not particularly at risk of “abuse, neglect or welfare concerns”? – Is mise,


Ballycasey Manor,


Co Clare.

Sir, – Padraig J O’Connor (September 8th) asks if there is any solution to this frantic style of shelf-stacking that reduces biscuits to crumbs. The answer is simple. Lidl and Aldi stack the packets of biscuits in the boxes they were shipped in, thus avoiding damage during handling. For optimum protection, select the packet in the middle of the box to avoid end-of-box bumps. – Yours, etc,


Birchfield Park,


Dublin 14.

Sir, – That’s the way the cookie crumbles (or “them’s the breaks”, if you like) in today’s world of mass production. Bake your own. – Yours, etc,


South Circular Road,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Your graphic illustrating the property tax revenue of local authorities (September 5th) makes it plain to see that the “squeezed middle” extends from Malin Head to Carnsore Point. – Yours, etc,



Co Donegal.

Sir, – Robert B Johnston (September 6th) deplores delays at an Irish airport. He should try going in the other direction with a non-US passport, then he would find out what airport welcomes are like. – Yours, etc,



Co Westmeath.

Sir, – What’s happening to the Cork Jazz Festival this year? Imelda May? The Drifters? Great artists, but hardly jazz. – Yours, etc,


John McCormack Avenue,


Dublin 12.

Irish Independent:

The unhinged behaviour of the so-called “Islamic State”, detached from all considerations of rational purpose or intent, may incline us to forget that the great Arabian cities of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo were once beacons of enlightenment, tolerance and trade.

The Arab world, one of civilization’s great sources of learning, introduced us to the foundations of mathematics, science and philosophy, but has now become a toxic mix of fundamentalist religious beliefs, autocratic dynastic government and steady disassociation from the rest of the world.

I remember as a child being spellbound by the ‘Arabian Nights’, where I was introduced to tales that have influenced writers through the ages. It was a world of excitement and imagination. Children continue to be beguiled by ‘Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp’, the ‘Voyages of Sinbad’, and ‘Ali-Baba and the Forty Thieves’.

One of the least-understood aspects of the weakening of a distinctive Arab culture is its relationship to the development of Islam, as it steadily corroded the Arabian response to the world around it. At the extreme end fanatical jihadis, in combining Earthly and spiritual authority, seek to eliminate state boundaries in order to establish a world-wide Caliphate. The notion of democracy sits uneasily with their world view.

What has the West provided? The disastrous invasion of Iraq left a legacy of repression, economic stagnation and the intensification of mistrust of our world, particularly as represented by America. Brand America is very hard to sell in the context of the unlawful detention and torture in Guantanamo.

Here was a crass failure to act in accordance with the principles that were publicly so robustly espoused.

The breakdown of Arab culture should lead us to examine more critically our own way of life and the extent to which it has taken a direction that befits us as humans. We seem to be perpetually bewitched by vague ideals of national origin and destiny, but hesitant about confronting our share of present, unpalatable reality.

Philip O’Neill, Oxford, England

One is not amused

Information has been relayed to me from a source on the British royal staff that Queen Elizabeth is in a severe tizzy over the possibility of a “Yes” to an independent Scotland.

My informant’s intelligence implies that there are many sleepless nights in Windsor Castle due to the stark possibility that Britain is shrinking faster than the Arctic circle, a condition that is blamed on the ozone hole getting bigger. But that is no consolation to the royalist supporters who can only blame today’s resurrection of Robert the Bruce, Alex Salmond. He does not resemble the hole in the ozone layer in any way, but is on course to create a giant hole in London‘s exchequer book.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Calls for help have been received by the followers of the Ulster Covenant to drum up support for the brethren in the Better Together campaign, pushed by the hapless Alistair Darling.

A low cloud has appeared over “Ulster says No” territory, signalling the start of a migration that is akin to that of the wildebeest in the Serengeti. The Orangemen who often speak of their close affinity for their homeland of Scotland are intending to side with the English queen against the birthplace of their forefathers, who perhaps fought and routed the English invader at the battle of Bannockburn. Strange days.

James Woods, Gort an Choirce, Dun na nGall

Time to alter final ticket policy

Now that lightening has struck three times, might it be time for the GAA to adopt a ‘retain-your-ticket-stub’ policy and allow those who attended the first match the chance to see the replay.

Conan Doyle, Kilkenny city

Hurling final a cause for pride

Sir, Let us hope that the rest of the world was able to view the scintillating All-Ireland hurling final to form some idea of what the real Ireland is like. I was one of only two Kilkenny supporters (the other being my son) in the Clyde Court Hotel this afternoon where mesmerised American tourists were supporting the so-called underdogs with cries of ‘Up the Blues’.

We can hardly hope to see a finer display of hurling. How pleasing to see the replay designated for Croke Park on September 27, if the players have sufficient time to recover from their heroic endeavours.

In the football semi-final Mayo were surely defeated in the end by sheer exhaustion in the second period of extra time in the replay against Kerry (who were deserving winners).

May I suggest that we send the two hurling finalists as missionaries to the northern counties to teach them the rudiments of this wonderful game, played with superlative courage and pride this afternoon.

Such an occasion must surely be a source of pride for Irish men and women throughout the world, and a source of envy to the rest of us.

Dr Gerald Morgan, Trinity College, Dublin 2

Austerity shown to be futile

Obviously, the pumping of more than €500 billion into the EU economy by the European Central Bank means the horrendous austerity hell nations have been are going through has been meaningless, if this could have been done as far back as 2008.

We are led by a group of damn fools who see citizens as mere cash machines. Grr.

Robert Sullivan, Bantry, Co Cork

EU ineptitude on display

They have squeezed the last drop of blood out of us, and practically sucked the financial marrow from our bones.

Alas, all they have succeeded in doing, despite all that pain and hardship, is arriving right back where we started.

Any wonder Europe‘s economies are flat-lining when the cure has killed the patient?

Now that the death certificate has been drawn up these geniuses – whom we do not elect, but who nonetheless control our commercial universe – seem to be on the verge of some kind of epiphany.

They know that they have made something of a hames of the whole business.

All that anguish and sacrifice has achieved nothing, so they have hit upon plan B.

Print more money and do away with interest rates.

The banks can throw money around again like snuff at the wake, and there will be some version of quantitative easing.

Further evidence, as if it were needed, that if the EU is the answer it must have been a silly question!

D O’Brien, Connemara, Co Galway

Israel should look to itself

The Israeli ambassador to Ireland, Boaz Modai, criticises pro-Palestinian protesters by saying that they “show no respect for democracy, for dialogue and for the hospitality for which this country is famous”.

May I suggest that he promptly takes himself off to Palestine and helps promote such ideals, particularly among that particular groups of his fellow men who are clearly not familiar with such notions as applying to their neighbours.

Ted O’Keeffe, Ranelagh, Dublin 6

Irish Independent

More books

September 8, 2014

8 September 2014 More books

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A sunny but cool day. I potter around not doing very much at all I get some books

Mary’s back not much better today, rabbitfor tea and her back pain is still there.


Frank Constantine – obituary

Frank Constantine was a gallery director who let local residents borrow art for their own living rooms

Frank Constantine, director of Sheffield City Art Galleries, in 1982

Frank Constantine, director of Sheffield City Art Galleries, in 1982 Photo: SHEFFIELD NEWSPAPERS

5:51PM BST 07 Sep 2014


Frank Constantine, who has died aged 95, contrived during 18 years as director of Sheffield City Art Galleries to rebuild and expand collections depleted by war damage through canny purchases, and fostered a lively cultural programme that earned the city a national reputation in the art world.

For much of this time he worked in tandem with Enid Hattersley (the formidable mother of Roy Hattersley), who chaired the city council’s Libraries and Arts Committee. Constantine’s courtly, twinkling yet firm manner was the perfect foil to his chairman’s well-meaning garrulousness; and the combination of her political backing and his own shrewd building of connections through the Arts Council achieved much.

Constantine’s signal achievement came early in his tenure with the reopening of the Mappin Gallery, whose Victorian collections had been heavily depleted when the building took a direct hit during the Blitz.

Working with Lewis Womersley, Sheffield’s modernistic city architect, he created white interlinked open spaces for modern and contemporary works. For what was left of the original collection they conjured up what a later keeper of the Mappin termed “not a gallery of Victorian art, but a Victorian’s idea of contemporary art”. In 2002 the Mappin would be absorbed by Weston Park Museum.

With funds available for purchases until the city hit hard times soon after his retirement in 1982, Constantine showed his genius in the saleroom. He found Pre-Raphaelites to fill a major and surprising gap in the city’s collections, and picked up Matisses and other Impressionists, a collection of Persian pottery and contemporary works by the likes of Auerbach and Caulfield at modest prices. He once kept costs down by purchasing a diptych in two halves, persuading the dealer that, once he had bought the first, no one else would bid for the second.

A particular innovation was a scheme under which Sheffield residents, for a nominal fee, could borrow paintings from the city collection not shown in the galleries and hang them in their living rooms for a few months.

Frank Constantine

Harry Francis Constantine was born at Nether Green, Sheffield, on February 11 1919, the youngest son of the watercolourist George Hamilton Constantine and his wife Catherine. From High Storrs Grammar School he studied at Sheffield Art College, becoming an accomplished landscape painter. His first job, however, was illustrating a furniture catalogue.

Constantine joined the Royal Engineers and saw war service from 1944 with the Inter-Services Liaison Department, an arm of MI6, in North Africa, Palestine, Syria and Italy.

After demobilisation he trained as a conservator at the Courtauld, then joined his father, who by then was director of Sheffield’s main Graves Gallery. He oversaw the rebuilding of the Mappin as deputy director, and by the time he took over as director of both galleries in 1964 had not only a total grasp of the strengths and deficiencies of the city’s collections, but also a clear vision of what could be achieved with them.

Constantine made the fullest use of those collections through a vigorous art education programme with a reach beyond the middle-class west of the city. Meanwhile, his active role on Arts Council panels brought to Sheffield a succession of popular touring exhibitions, notably of Landseer in 1972 and Alma-Tadema in 1976. The culmination of his directorship was the first British Arts Show in 1979, and the following year the exhibition Homespun to Highspeed: A Century of British Design, created with the Sheffield designer David Mellor and his wife Fiona McCarthy.

From 1991 to 2005 Constantine was a director of the Guild of St George, a charity for arts, crafts and the rural economy founded by John Ruskin. He was appointed OBE in 1981.

Frank Constantine married his wife Eileen in 1946; she died in 2009, and he is survived by their two sons and two daughters. An exhibition of his acquisitions is to be staged next year at the Graves Gallery.

Frank Constantine, born February 11 1919, died July 26 2014


Commuters struggle with floods in Dhaka Flash flooding in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 27 August 2014. Photograph: Firoz Ahmed/ Demotix/Corbis

Later this month world leaders will gather in New York for a historic summit on climate change. This is an opportunity to inspire key decision-makers to act in the face of a growing climate crisis that threatens almost every aspect of our lives. Politicians all over the world cite a lack of public support as a reason not to take bold action against climate change. So on 21 September we will meet this moment with unprecedented public mobilisations in cities around the world, including thousands of people on the streets of London. Our goal is simple – to demonstrate the groundswell demand that exists for ambitious climate action.

From New York and London to Paris, Berlin, Delhi and Melbourne we’ll demonstrate demand for an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities. There is only one ingredient that is required: to change everything, we need everyone. History is our proof that the impossible is smaller than we think. The abolition of slavery. The end of apartheid. The spread of universal suffrage. All proof that the future is ours to shape. We just need to step out and claim it.
Ricken Patel Executive director, Avaaz, David Babbs Executive director, 38 Degrees, John Sauven Executive director, Greenpeace-UK, Matthew Frost Chief executive, Tearfund, Mark Goldring Chief executive, Oxfam, Justin Forsyth CEO, Save the Children, David Nussbaum CEO, WWF-UK, Neil Thorns Chair, The Climate Coalition, Chris Bain Director, Cafod, Loretta Minghella CEO, Christian Aid, Andy Atkins Executive director, Friends of the Earth, Claire James Campaign against Climate Change, Sam Fairbairn National secretary, People’s Assembly Against Austerity

• Zoe Williams makes a compelling case for an energy revolution (Pessimism won’t do. We need an energy revolution, 1 September). Behind a PR smokescreen of getting tough on energy companies, it’s clear that both the government and the Labour frontbench are bending over backwards to keep the Big Six energy giants content. It’s little wonder that people feel pessimistic. A major transformation of the way the UK generates its heat and power is essential. Fuel poverty is rife and the UK is languishing near the bottom of renewable energy league tables – costing jobs, as well as endangering our credibility on tackling climate change.

Above all, what we need is a revolution in ownership of our energy system. If the main parties were really on the side of consumers, community ownership and decentralised energy would be at the heart of their energy proposals – not just the very periphery.

In July, the Institute for Public Policy Research set out clear plans for how cities and local authorities can provide an alternative to the Big Six and create a cleaner, smarter and more affordable energy system. Later this month, Community Energy Fortnight will celebrate success stories of locally owned energy from across the UK – projects such as the Brighton Energy Co-operative that provide a glimpse of an incredibly positive alternative energy future, where people are active producers and not just passive consumers. Profits are reinvested locally, rather than going into the pockets of multinational shareholders. The problem isn’t that we don’t know what policy changes are needed to give all local communities, villages, towns and cities the ability to generate their own heat and power from local renewable energy sources. What’s lacking is the political will to stand up to the Big Six.
Caroline Lucas MP
Green, Brighton Pavilion

• Matt Gorman, sustainability director at Heathrow – itself an oxymoron –misstates the Committee on Climate Change concerning runway expansion in the south-east (Letters, 4 September). The committee has established a legal limit of 37.5m tonnes of CO2 a year to cover all UK civil aviation emissions through to 2050, to ensure aviation growth fits within the targets for overall greenhouse gas reduction. Current annual aviation emissions are around 33m tonnes a year, so while it might just about be possible to allocate the available headroom – approximately 4.5m tonnes – to an additional runway anywhere in the south-east, which the CCC has said could happen mathematically, this would mean no further aviation CO2 budget for expansion elsewhere in the UK. A busy third runway at Heathrow or a second at Gatwick would very likely soak all this up. We cannot find any statement or form of words that would support Mr Gorman’s claim that the CCC supports a third runway at Heathrow airport.
Jeffrey Gazzard
Board member, Aviation Environment Federation

• Guy Standing (Comment, 5 September) makes some useful suggestions how the fruits of fracking could at least be more fairly distributed than was the case of North Sea oil. One further suggestion: the first use of any profit should be to fund alternative forms of energy for a time when there is no recoverable oil or gas.
Richard Bull
Woodbridge, Suffolk

Why are the media almost silent about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership being negotiated by the EU and the US? The TTIP represents a massive attack on the sovereignty of democratically elected governments; it will be irreversible. Attempts to harmonise standards between the EU and the US are likely to hit hard-won protections on food and chemical safety (eg in cosmetics, insecticides and pesticides), the environment, and workers’ rights. US agribusiness is pressing hard for Europe to import currently illegal GM products, and meat that does not conform to EU standards, such as chlorine-washed chicken and cattle raised with growth hormones.

The threat of litigation against states which pass laws in the public interest that could impact on corporation profits is particularly insidious. Already, Quebec is being sued for deciding to ban fracking, and tobacco company Philip Morris is suing the Australian government for trying to protect public health by legislation on the marketing of cigarettes. Germany is being sued because of its policies on nuclear power; Slovakia’s public health system is being challenged by commercial interests. Such cases could become commonplace, with profits being placed firmly above people, and commercial interests overriding national law.

Apparently, Ed Miliband hopes for an NHS opt-out clause, but it is doubtful the EU would make this a high priority in talks. We hope that all our political leaders agree that it should be democratically elected governments that decide what services should be publicly owned and managed, in the public interest, not international corporations.
Neville Grant

This undated museum archive handout pict Scratching the surface of abstraction: Neanderthal rock engraving, Gibraltar. Photograph: Stewart Finlayson/AFP/Getty Images

Steve Rose’s round-up of new films featuring trade unions (Lights, cameras, industrial action, G2, 5 September; Letters, 6 September) would have been strengthened by the inclusion of Still the Enemy Within, Owen Gower’s documentary about the miners’ strike, partially funded by donations from the major British unions. Released next month, it coincidentally features Mike Jackson of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, whose story is fictionalised in Pride. Rose might also have mentioned that, off-screen, staff at the Ritzy in London, the UK’s most successful arthouse cinema, have been campaigning for a living wage from Picturehouse owners Cineworld. Strikes and unions are neither just a historical nor a fictional issue.
Sophie Mayer

• Re the news that the oldest “abstract art”, attributed to Neanderthals, has been found in Gibraltar (Report, 3 September): you have forgotten that on 11 January 2002 you published a piece headed “The world’s first artwork found in Africa”, about a piece of engraved red ochre from Blombos Cave on the south coast of South Africa, dated 77,000 years before the present. The Gibraltar engraving is a mere 40,000 years old. As always, H sapiens was ahead of the game.
John Picton
Emeritus professor of African art, SOAS, University of London

• “Angry Hodgson” (front page, Sport, 5 September); “Miserable Murray” (back page). Maybe there are some happier sportswomen? It is hard to find out as a Guardian reader, though. No women again in the entire Sport section.
Rebecca Higgins
Rushden, Northamptonshire

Michael Kustow

Highbrow argument: Michael Kustow in 1968, as director of the ICA. Photograph: Chris Morris/Rex

Jeremy Isaacs writes: Channel 4 was charged, by Act of Parliament, with providing a “distinctive” service; as its commissioning editor for the arts, Michael Kustow did much to make that promise good. His thinking was bold, his ambition high. Peter Brook’s Hindu saga, The Mahabharata; Peter Hall’s masked Oresteia; Pina Bausch‘s Bluebeard’s Castle and Tony Harrison’s V, directed by Richard Eyre, tumbled on to the screen one after the other. BBC2 commissioned an opera from Harrison Birtwistle, Yan Tan Tethera, but declined to broadcast it. Kustow snapped it up for Channel 4; the television version we made was simulcast with the BBC’s Radio 3. He brought together the artist Tom Phillips and the film-maker Peter Greenaway to attempt A TV Dante: eight episodes of The Inferno resulted. Kustow behaved as a patron of the arts in a grand manner.

Himself an unreconstructed egghead, Kustow also offered highbrow argument. The programme Voices began with Al Alvarez chairing a debate, with George Steiner, Mary McCarthy and Joseph Brodsky, on the effect on artists of dictatorship. Six series of Voices were screened at 11pm. And there were programmes such as Psychoanalysis Today (Michael Ignatieff) and Philosophy Today (John Searle). Thoughtful viewers in those days owed much to Michael Kustow. He deserves to be remembered for it.

Tony Gordon writes: In the 1970s, Michael Kustow generously answered an optimistic plea from Colin Jellicoe and myself (who both owned small galleries) to visit us in Manchester to discuss a possible exhibition of northern based artists at the National Theatre. He was the NT exhibitions director at the time.

Where to go for lunch? He suggested Armenian, as part of his family had originated from Armenia and he loved the food. At the time, Colin and I were both struggling financially and couldn’t really afford the restaurant, but luckily Arto der Haroutunian, the restaurant owner, happened to be one of our artists. Michael proved great company, very entertaining and most gracious.

In due course, the exhibition was organised and filled the foyers of the NT. Looking back, it was not the greatest of exhibitions and was rightly slated by Time Out. However, the knock-on effect was my contemporary jewellery exhibition Dazzle which stayed for 32 years at the NT, until it moved along the South Bank last year to the Oxo building.

Bernard Regan writes: In the last 10 years Michael Kustow and I worked together on a number of projects. One was Another Israel, a meeting at the NUT headquarters in Euston Road, London, which gave a platform to speakers from Israel opposed to the policies of the Israeli government. Michael organised the filming of the event, which was packed. He was supportive of all those who wanted to open the debate within the Jewish community about what was happening to the Palestinian people and of those within Israel who sought to question their government’s actions.

Michael visited Israel and the West Bank and took a close interest in the Freedom theatre in Jenin. I think he made a political journey, too – always questioning and challenging, but engaged and never negative. He brought his wide interest in the arts to bear on how he thought about the issues and how he sought to engage people in a dialogue and discussion about them.

Mike Westbrook writes: One of Mike Kustow’s projects was an English version of Roger Planchon‘s surrealist opera about Al Capone, Mama Chicago. The original music and the songs had got lost, so Mike wrote new lyrics and asked me to write the music. The piece had been commissioned by the Crucible theatre, Sheffield. I duly wrote the score, and my group the Brass Band was booked to play for the show, on-stage. At the last minute the theatre’s director got cold feet about the possible impact of this avant-garde production on the provincial audience and pulled the plug.

The Mama Chicago songs stayed on the shelf until Kate Westbrook and I had the idea of using them as the basis for a jazz cabaret, a form of music-theatre, incorporating improvisation, that we had been developing with the band. The show was first staged at Charles Marowitz‘s Open Space theatre, a disused post office by Warren Street tube. We invited Michael to the premiere, having told him nothing of our plans. To our great relief, he loved the show, and did not seem to mind a bit that we had reworked some of his lyrics as stand-alone songs rather than parts of an operatic scenario.

At the Edinburgh festival in 1978, Mama Chicago won the Fringe award. Over the succeeding years, Kate, Phil Minton and I, with a succession of bands, gave frequent London performances, and toured the jazz cabaret throughout France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Scandinavia, and once to Australia. It was filmed for BBC TV, broadcast on radio, and recorded as a double album. In fact, Mama Chicago was one of our most successful projects.

It pleased Michael that the piece he had sparked off reached such a wide audience. His text for Song of the Rain, featured in the show by Phil Minton, is a work of genius – poignant, witty, and soulful. One of the last times we met was at the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden for the launch of his Peter Brook biography. At Mike’s request, Kate sang Song of the Rain. He described that lyric as “God given”. He has left us a great theatre song to remember him by.


Whenever I hear about the imminent dissolution of the UK, my mood sinks. I was born in a country that split in two when I was six. The divorce of Czechs and Slovaks did not immediately hurt me as much as it did my parents (and especially my grandparents) who were born in a proud country but, more importantly, a relatively strong country, with a certain vision and a great potential.

What remained after the separation was a strange emptiness: two weak sister nations without any meaningful aspirations or ambitions and with extremely limited power to determine their fates, but with almost twice as many politicians and bureaucrats getting more power and opportunities for themselves.

When I was growing up, it was the period of Cool Britannia, inspiring the young generation all over the world. It gave rise to what is today one of the most valuable brands in the world. Surprisingly, there has never been any need for a special campaign. The advert has been displayed by millions of volunteers on their badges, T-shirts, handbags, socks, umbrellas or even underwear for free.

The Union Jack is arguably the most popular flag in the world, not only because of its likeable design, but more importantly for what it represents.

The secession of Scotland would not only constitute an unwelcome disturbance to the audience that follows the story of the country they like, but more importantly, it would harm a fragile balance of power in Europe. The UK, as a power that has helped to prevent the rise of any potential hegemony on the Continent at several critical moments of modern history, would be largely neutralised.

If we lose the UK in its current form, the dominance of France and especially Germany in the EU is going to increase beyond a healthy level.

I may never see Czechoslovakia on the map of the world again. However, if the Scottish voters decide to secede, this cannot be the final outcome of the Union’s story. To us, it would only be the start of a quest for a reunion – the only possible happy ending for the inhabitants of the British Isles and of Europe.

Petr Witz, Domazlice, Czech Republic

The Scots will vote yes. And the rest of us will owe them a debt of gratitude. Their vote will send symbolically, in the only effective way our current democratic system permits, these messages to all our politicians:

We want not a change of government, but a change of politics. You lack the competence to run the country, and the vision to lead it. You lied to us and deceived us into an illegal war. You cheated and stole from us. A privileged, privately educated 7 per cent permanently holds up to 73 per cent of positions of power. Our representative democracy entrenches a profoundly unrepresentative power structure. The privileged power elite are not held accountable or punished for their venality, incompetence or mistakes.

We are justly proud of our NHS and the inspirational ideals that underpin it. We want those principles preserved, not undermined by subversive privatisation.

Good luck, Scotland. We respect your courage and admire your confidence.

Keith Farman, St Albans, Hertfordshire

Over 100 years ago one of Scotland’s most principled sons, Keir Hardie, became MP for Merthyr Tydfil, a Welsh constituency at the heart of the South Wales mining community. He was not Welsh and did not speak Welsh but he did share a socialist dream that did not stop or begin at national borders. He went on to change the face of British politics, but he also taught us that there is more that unites us than what can ever divide us.

Soon Scotland will have the choice of remaining within the UK or going it alone. What it decides will have a profound effect on the working-class people of the rest of Britain. Without the red army of Scottish Labour MPs, the chances of any future progressive government being elected at Westminster would be much reduced.

As a proud Brit and Welshman, I urge you to keep sending more Scottish working-class heroes, like Hardie, to our British Parliament. Please don’t leave us now. Together we can achieve more than we can being alone.

Rob Curtis, Labour Councillor, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Barry, South Wales

NHS has a case of chronic myopia

It would be reassuring to think that the sad case of Ashya King and the myopic attitude of the NHS to proton therapy was a rare event, but it illustrates the flawed process through which some treatment programmes are supported and others rejected.

When I developed severe angina almost 10 years ago, I discovered that some doctors in the US routinely reverse the condition, that their patients do not need stents or bypasses and take minimum medication, and that their methods had been published in medical journals.

I followed their treatment plan, reversed my heart disease and resumed a normal life in less than six months. Needless to say, the method is not part of the NHS programme.

My neighbour and her son had both been diagnosed as type-one diabetics and had been injecting themselves with insulin for 15 years. Using methods published in medical literature, but again not currently part of the NHS programme, they were able to give up insulin and bring their blood sugar levels into a normal range through lifestyle changes alone.

Why is it so difficult to get the NHS to open its mind to treatments that can benefit patients and save money but are not part of its current practice?

Why do patients need to look to other countries to find more enlightened solutions to their health problems?

Peter Lewis, Cardiff

Nato’s rapid – and dangerous – reaction

Your cartoonist Ben Jennings is off the mark in lampooning Nato’s rapid reaction force as a tortoise with a couple of rockets attached. Neither militarily nor politically is this correct. Britain is taking the lead, with 1,000 troops and UK officers in charge.

This is combined with another semi-permanent deployment of Nato forces on training exercises in eastern Europe, including another 3,500 from Britain, as well as an open invitation to all countries on Russia’s borders to join Nato. If I were Putin, I’d feel obliged to increase force levels and look for further support to strengthen my borders.

Politically, this has been an extremely rapid reaction, with David Cameron consulting neither Parliament nor the wider public. All this amounts to a dangerous, British-led provocation and escalation, when what is needed is empathy and careful diplomacy.

Quentin Deakin, Tywyn, Gwynedd

The only obstacle to Putin’s dream of recreating a Russian Empire is Nato.

His scheming is all based on provoking some sort of reaction by a Nato country to his military activity, albeit by alleged separatists.

So far, he has got away with invading part of a country whose independence was guaranteed by Russia, shooting down a civilian airliner with more than 200 dead, and all the death and destruction in Ukraine.

Nato will be declared an enemy of Russia after some minor response, whereupon he will claim justification for cutting off gas supplies to western Europe. At which point, he hopes, Germany, France et al will think twice about the merits of belonging to Nato, compared with frozen homes, industries and economies.

Laurence Shields, Wingerworth, Derbyshire

No benefit payout unless you pay in

Yet another think tank favours a radical change in how the NHS and healthcare should be funded. The answer in all such “radical” debates, however, seems to be increasing the tax burden on the working public.

Why doesn’t government address the basic problem – that is, getting more people contributing to the tax system?

People who have never contributed to the system draw on state benefits. Get these people out of the benefits system and into employment, and tax those who will benefit; ie, if you haven’t paid in, then there’s no paying out.

Ron Connelly, Dalgety Bay, Fife

Two comedians and double standards

Alice Jones’s piece on Joan Rivers in the 6 September edition, the same one in which you had an article on the “anti-Semitic French comedian’ Dieudonné M’bala M’bala (“Comedian may face prosecution over sketch about Isis executions”), suggested double standards at work.

For Rivers, everything was “game for a gag”, including dead Palestinians. I struggle to find humour in the statements of either “comedian”. But M’Bala M’Bala is always labelled anti-Semitic. Why, then, is Rivers not denounced for what was by any standards a vile racist rant? Instead, we are told that it was an attempted gag in which she “stumbled badly”.

Is it not time we called a vile racist rant what it is, and denounce whoever makes it for racism?

Keith Jacobsen, New Barnet


Sir, The news that some disillusioned jihadists are seeking ways of returning to Britain offers the government a possible way out of its legal impasse (“Let us come home, say young British jihadists”, Sept 5). Given their reported belief that “if they died fighting other rebels or jihadist groups they might not qualify for martyrdom and its benefits in paradise”, there is clearly a long way to go before these fighters are ready to be reintegrated into society.

Nevertheless the fact that they seem prepared to undergo mandatory deradicalisation programmes and continuing surveillance by the British authorities suggests that it would be worthwhile instituting a rehabilitation programme rather than simply denying British passport-holders the right of return, which would almost certainly be illegal.

Components of the programme would need to include a channel of communication for willing returnees to identify themselves and to make safe and secure arrangements for their return to the UK; formal arrest on arrival in the UK and remand to a dedicated secure detention facility to enable thorough debriefing, rehabilitation and assessment of returnees prior to release (or charge where appropriate); and continuing surveillance after release until the authorities are satisfied that an individual presents no security threat.

The government is right to take a tough line on terrorism and to refuse re-entry if a suspected jihadist would not be rendered stateless, but for British passport-holders who wish to return there must be a way of facilitating this while at the same time ensuring the safety of the public. Michael Patterson Swineshead, Lincs

Sir, The idea that we might seek to reintegrate young British Muslims who become disillusioned with killing in Syria and elsewhere is the utmost folly (“Experts raise fears over strategy to deal with Jihadists back from war”, Sept 6).

Aside from providing a clear route for terrorists back into the UK, it would also send the unambiguous signal that going off to experiment with murderous jihad abroad was a viable gap year option.

Shaun Gregory
Professor of International Relations
Durham University

Sir, What an opportunity to demonstrate the contrast between the brutal, unforgiving philosophy of the “Islamic State” and the compassionate civilisation of a Christian based society. The proverb of the prodigal son springs immediately to mind.

Moreover, the pragmatic view that there is no stronger instrument of transformation than a mind driven by idealistic fervour that has been changed by the personal experience of a very different reality is one that should not be dismissed by equally entrenched dogma on behalf of our own authorities.

Many of the young men who went out to fight were disillusioned by the British reticence to engage in the early days of the Syrian uprising, and very likely felt disempowered in their personal lives.

A compassionate and intelligent understanding of their motives, as expressed by the German model, would be much more constructive in defeating extremism than a punitive response to their desire to return to what they now seem happy to consider “home”. Putting them in prison is not the answer, but learning how to deal constructively with their undoubtedly traumatising experiences would be educative for us all.

AMS Hutton-Wilson
Evercreech, Somerset

Sir, Rather than the poorly conceived Kansai airport (letter, Sept 5), surely Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport is a more apt comparison with “Boris Island”. This massive project was planned, designed and substantially constructed under British rule using mainly UK-based consultants. The logistical constraints were greater than the proposed new London airport. I worked for a construction company on the new airport, and like all the contractors, our only access to the site was by boat and barge. To reach Chek Lap Kok, new underground and overground rail lines, highways, bridges and tunnels were built (at one time 91 per cent of the world’s dredger vessels were working in Hong Kong waters). The new airport lifted Hong Kong into the top rank of international airports and was a massive boost to Hong Kong’s economy after the handover in 1997. The airport’s infrastructure was also the spur to large new developments served by the new road and rail links. This would be true for “Boris Island” too.

Surely if all this could be achieved by us in Hong Kong, we could do it equally well on our home turf?

Brian Sobey

Huyton, Liverpool

Sir, Alex Salmond is keen to compare an independent Scotland with Norway (“Why Scotland will never be Norway”, Sept 6).

Yet why has no one pointed out that the average price of a “pint” in Norway is two to three times that in the UK? Chris Hawkins Newton Aycliffe, Co Durham

Sir, My late Scottish grandfather perhaps held the key to saving the Union. He declared: “You will nay persuade a Scotsman by smothering him in kisses or threatening him with a stick”.

When I, a cheeky wee boy, asked him why then he had married an English woman, he replied: “Laddie, it was the clink of coin”. Roger Macdonald Richmond, Surrey


Sir, Bettany Hughes (report, Sept 5) notes that Ancient Greek women were “kept not only covered, but veiled”. By the time of the Byzantine empire women lived almost entirely separately from men. When the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453 they imitated these Greek practices and forced Muslim women, who had previously been treated with much greater equality and respect, to wear veils and remain hidden in the Zenana or Harem.

Many other inclusive and democratic aspects of the earliest days of Islam, Christianity and Judaism seem to have been forgotten by modern practitioners of those faiths while negative innovations, imposed by later bigots, are mistaken for doctrine.

Ralph Lloyd-Jones


Sir, I am moved to ask why a decapitation scene (report, Sept 5) was contemplated, let alone included, in a multigenerational series such as Doctor Who, in the first place?

Peter Graham-Woollard

Colwinston, Vale of Glamorgan


Aftermath of explosion in Allepo, Syria’s largest city Photo: AP

6:57AM BST 07 Sep 2014


SIR – Frank Tomlin (Letters, August 31) compares the current situation with Syria to the one confronting Winston Churchill in 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union – a world power, with a large population and vast territory, which bore more than its fair share in the eventual defeat of Germany and its allies.

There is no possible comparison between Russia then and Syria now – a small nation with a president who cannot even control his own country.

Valentine Ramsey
Sherborne, Dorset

SIR – David Cameron said the Government will do all it can to save the British hostage being held by Islamic State (, September 2). He then contradicted himself by saying it will not consider a ransom. Can he not at least be honest?
Dr Michael Ford
Villeneuve-sur-Lot, Lot-et-Garonne, France

Bored by border talk

SIR – The chaos in Britain’s border controls has been well documented for many years. Ministers, politicians and civil servants always have plenty to say about how to overcome the problems – and yet nothing ever changes.

Ken Shuttleworth
St Albans, Hertfordshire

SIR – Some years ago, when renewing my South African residency permit, I was asked for details of all flights I had made to and from South Africa over the previous decade. When I said I had no such records, a print-out appeared with all details listed: flight numbers, airlines, dates and times.

I am sure South African Home Affairs could recommend a suitable computer programme to the British Home Secretary.

David Edwards
White Roding, Essex

Designer babies

SIR – On the topic of “three-parent babies” one prospective applicant said: “It is a leap into the unknown, but this is progress.” One can sympathise with her wish not to pass on a devastating disability, but does this solution really represent progress?

As Dr David King warns, it would undoubtedly herald “designer babies”, a trend already evident in surrogacy arrangements where “superior” qualities are requested and disabled children are rejected.

The experience of parents who have lost several children to genetic conditions is tragic, but at least to them each child was a child with special needs – not a failed experiment.

Ann Farmer
Woodford Green, Essex

Who’ll let Red Ed in?

SIR – Contrary to what Matthew d’Ancona believes (Opinion, August 31), David Cameron and other top Tories will be to blame if Ed Miliband ends up in No 10, not those voters who have been driven into the arms of Ukip as a result of the “modernisation” of the Conservative Party.

As for the famous promised in-out EU referendum, I don’t know anyone who believes that this will actually happen.

Brian Jones
Pontardawe, Glamorgan

A noxious problem

SIR – Sue Doughty (Letters, August 31) makes some observations about waste incineration that may be less than helpful.

While burning waste may solve the problem of noxious fumes brought about by landfill, it actually generates noxious chemicals during the burning process. A better solution would be to remove the biodegradable material in waste and anaerobically digest it. This would cleanly collect the noxious fumes, which can be used for the generation of energy.

The ash that remains after burning is contaminated by dioxins, furans and heavy metals, which may make it unsuitable for further use.

Mrs Doughty rightly points out that land is a valuable commodity, but landfill may still be the best way to store waste plastics temporarily to be reused in the future.

I would contend that there is no such thing as “waste disposal” – only waste treatment and storage. Incineration is neither; it is a white elephant that achieves no ultimate good.

John A C Beattie
Bishop’s Cleeve, Gloucestershire

SIR – I went to Canada as a war bride in 1946 and in Winnipeg found that some homes were being heated by waste from city incinerators.

This was over 60 years ago and still we have not followed suit.

Dorothy McDowell
Walsall, West Midlands

Anti-seagull snack

SIR – During the Second World War, marauding seagulls diving to snatch sandwiches (Letters, August 31) were a nuisance to many coastal anti-aircraft and searchlight crews.

The problem was solved by letting them steal sandwiches laced with baking powder.

The seagulls, incapable of burping, soon got the message, and, being intelligent birds, quickly passed it on.

Kevin Heneghan
St Helens, Lancashire

Ashya King’s parents were treated unfairly

SIR – Are we now to assume that any parents who choose to remove their child from hospital, even in the absence of any court order, will be arrested?

Ashya King’s parents seem to have acted exactly as any of us would in this situation.

R H Cornish
Coleford, Gloucestershire

SIR – The NHS not only denied a specific, potentially life-saving, treatment to Ashya King, it also demanded that his parents abandon their hope of getting the treatment elsewhere. A case of “our way, or no way”.

Martin Burgess
Beckenham, Kent

Making tax taxing

SIR – The abolition of car tax disc is ridiculous. The current system is perfectly straightforward and has lasted nearly 100 years, but is to be replaced by police cars tracking us all over the place causing all sorts of chaos and embarrassment.

Roy Widdup
Hadleigh, Essex

SIR – In future, if I sell a car in the middle of the month, I will need to reclaim the remaining value of the tax disc from the DVLA – but it will only refund whole months. Whoever buys my car will have to get a new tax disc – but will have to pay from the beginning of the month.

The Government will profit from two lots of tax paid for the same car on the same month.

Duncan Anderson
East Halton, Lincolnshire

Key priorities

SIR – Having recently lost the key for my 19th-century pocket watch, I went to see about a replacement. I told the watchmaker it was a number six, so he gave me a number four.

A recent Brussels directive has revised the numbering of watch keys: the range of sizes is unchanged, but the numbering is simply inverted. This news will gladden all who have felt the 500-year-old numbering system was not quite right. Perhaps now action will finally be taken to standardise the labelling of wig powder.

Robin Dow
Stocksbridge, South Yorkshire

No ice or a slice

SIR – Andy Watson (Letters, August 31) wonders why people ask: “Can I get a pint of…?” This is nothing compared to what I heard recently from a youth in our local. He was buying a round of drinks, including a glass of lemonade, and asked the barman: “Can I get no ice in the lemonade?”

Frank Ackley
Old Glossop, Derbyshire

Eat my dust: under proposed regulations tractors would be able to travel at speeds of up to 25mph  Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 07 Sep 2014


SIR – Instead of the derisory 5mph increase in the speed limit for tractors, proposed by the Department for Transport, it would be more effective to follow the example of some European countries where slow-moving vehicles are obliged by law to pull over and let other traffic go past when the queue behind them is more than three or four vehicles long.

David Nicholls
Manningtree, Essex

SIR – Spare some pity for country folk. In our narrow lanes tractors thunder by much faster than the speed limit, driven by young lads with one hand attached to their mobile phones – and they don’t even need a licence.

I am a farmer’s daughter, so I understand they have a business to carry out, but in the age of Health and Safety, surely farmers should have better training to drive these vehicles.

Deborah Garland
Calne, Wiltshire

SIR – You describe the frustrations of tracking slow-moving tractors on narrow roads and advise that the Government has found a possible solution by raising the speed limit for tractors.

I happen to be approaching in the opposite direction. Any suggestions?

Norman D Overfield
Bardsey, West Yorkshire

SIR – Never mind increasing the speed limit for tractors – I fail to understand why the ultimate off-road vehicle is allowed on roads at all. They should drive on the other side of the hedge.

Why they are allowed in towns and cities is beyond comprehension.

Steve Cattell
Grantham, Lincolnshire

Independence: on September 18 Scotland will vote on whether or not to remain a part of the United Kingdom Photo: PA

7:00AM BST 07 Sep 2014


SIR – Derek Leithead asks why an Outer Mongolian who has recently moved to Scotland should be able to vote in the upcoming Scottish independence referendum while he, born and educated in Glasgow, should not.

Mr Leithead is under the impression that the purpose of the referendum is to ascertain the wishes of the Scots. This is not the case; it has been called for by the SNP who see it as a way of being voted into long-term power.

Expatriate Scots like Mr Leithead have seen the real world and are most unlikely to be hoodwinked by the wild posturings and unsupportable claims of Alex Salmond and his friends. Hence they are unacceptable to the SNP, who are managing the referendum.

David Cooke
Woking, Surrey

SIR – If the United Kingdom had a proper constitutional framework incorporating the various regions of the country in a constructive legal way, the need for the Scottish independence referendum would never have arisen.

The British Government has made no preparations for the possibility of Scotland going it alone, and the Scottish government has no idea what currency to use in this case. The whole thing is farcical.

The referendum saga is a dreadful indictment of the way British politicians have trivialised constitutional matters in recent years. We have a Conservative Party in charge of the country whose Lord Chancellor is not a lawyer; which has got rid of the last two heavyweight QCs in the cabinet (Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve); and which spent its valuable parliamentary time debating gay rights as the single most important issue facing mankind at the time.

It is time the Conservative Party woke up to the importance of constitutional issues and stopped trying to shove them under the Westminster carpets.

Timothy Stroud
Salisbury, Wiltshire

SIR – Andrew Gilligan writes about political bias in the Scottish civil service, but he is probably not aware of the democratic deficit in the Highlands.

Last year, independent candidates got the bulk of the vote in the local elections but the paid officers insisted that, because this disparate collection of councillors had no single policy, a fudged coalition should be formed and, guess what – our leader is an SNP clone.

Why bother to go to the expense of an election when you know the outcome?

Sue Hood

SIR – Rob Johnston fears that the English regard the Scots as parasites due to the subsidies they receive.

In England, we accept the fact that per capita public spending in Scotland is higher than in the rest of the UK, in return for shared oil and gas revenues, just as we accept the 52 Scottish MPs at Westminster who can vote on issues even when they do not affect their constituents.

University tuition fees have, however, caused deep resentment. Families south of the border are seeing their children saddled with huge debt just to cover their tuition, while Scottish universities offer free tuition to their own and other EU (but not British) students.

Graduates from the rest of the UK are starting careers owing about £50,000 while the Scots have only had to borrow for their living costs. It feels as if our graduates, who must pay off loans for 30 years, are subsidising Scottish and EU students in Scottish universities.

Jane O’Nions
Sevenoaks, Kent

SIR – It is far easier to argue on the “Yes” side, as everything is based on hope and speculation.

This is why we need an alternative vision of the UK’s future from the Unionist camp – one based on real change, not just for Scotland but for England and Wales: to radically decentralise one of the most centrally run nations in Europe to a true federal state.

Paul Duncanson
Aynho, Northamptonshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – After Cillian Downey’s (September 5th) misunderstanding of what I meant by schools being “run on principles guided by reason”, perhaps some clarification is needed. School governance, built upon a foundation of reason, would be neither guided by – nor prejudiced against – any particular religion.

Such an educational system would be characterised by inclusivity, tolerance and compassion, while promoting critical thinking and calmly rejecting the influence of dogmatism, superstition and bigotry. To claim “the substance of belief is reasonable whether or not we agree with it” is bordering on the ludicrous. Not all beliefs are reasonable. After all, is it reasonable to believe that homosexuality is an abomination, or that someone working on the Sabbath should be put to death? One’s right to hold a belief should always be respected, but it is neither wise – nor possible – to respect the beliefs of all the people in the world. This truism becomes all the more apparent when one considers that many of the world’s religions preach starkly conflicting ideologies, many of which are claimed to be fundamental truths. – Yours, etc,



Co Limerick.

Sir, – As a fan of the great Séamus Ennis, I read the views of Dr Ali Selim with some disquiet (“Call for State schools to accommodate Islamic beliefs”, September 3rd). It would seem that the bodhrán is okay but not the tin whistle. I feel that Mr Ennis would not be happy. – Yours, etc,


Station Road,

Portmarnock, Co Dublin.

Sir, – The “educational caste system” envisioned by Jacky Jones is real, but the view of it being dominated by enrolment at particular schools is incorrect (“Educational caste system affects all aspects of life”, Second Opinion, Health + Family, September 2nd). Many studies have shown that the quality of teaching and resources provided to students in schools is highly consistent, regardless of locality or whether the school is free or fee-paying.

The elephant in the room is the very high level of private tutoring and “grinds” classes received by students from well-off families. This factor is largely omitted from official statistics, but is a major factor in improved exam results and third-level entry in particular areas.

Principals of high-performing schools like to pretend that grinds do not exist, and that good results are entirely their doing. Parents don’t like to talk about grinds because that would be akin to admitting their little darlings are not quite as bright as everyone may think. Teaching unions also avoid discussion of grinds – partly because extra teaching outside of normal school hours provides a largely unreported income boost, but also because the high demand for grinds reflects poorly on conventional teaching within schools.

Grinds are expensive, and so are less utilised where money is tight. If we want more equality, a voucher system for disadvantaged families to avail of the same grinds as their better-heeled counterparts would be a big step. – Yours, etc,


Shamrock Street,

Phibsboro, Dublin 7.

Sir, – I write as descendant of people who fought for and lost everything in Austria-Hungary for being on the losing side in the Great War. It is hard today to accept that right across Europe as the lights went out that young and not so young men embraced that conflict, as many did so in Ireland.

The lead-up to the war was toxic, with beating war drums inciting primitive instincts to slaughter one’s fellow man. Teachers spoke of a sense of duty to their students. Religious fervour and the just war were preached from pulpits. The spirit for adventure filled newspapers. Veterans of the Franco-Prussian and Boer wars filled young heads with wild dreams. Naturally all these sentiments were milked by the contesting empires for what they were worth. In the end, nothing.

Trade unionists throughout “civilised” Europe, including our own James Connolly, campaigned against workers becoming cannon and machine-gun fodder in an imperialist, industrialised war but their pleas fell on deaf ears and near empty heads. John Redmond MP surrendered the National Volunteers to take the oath of allegiance to king and empire. They fought, were wounded, traumatised and died accordingly.

Similar fates occurred elsewhere and led to the founding of Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia after the war.

It took a madness akin to the courage of today’s jihadists for people to choose to live in rat-infested trenches under constant bombardment, waiting for their commanding officer to blow his whistle, then the junior officers with drawn revolvers (for battle field punishment) to order their men out onto no-man’s land and over barbed wire, shell craters and felled comrades with fixed bayonets to confront distant machine guns. To survive was doubtless a buzz for some, but a soul-destroying horror for most.

When the war was not over by Christmas 1914, Ireland went on to prosper greatly from it by supplying food, drink, horses, hides, cloth, ships, explosives and other materials for the imperial war effort. In fact the Irish were valued more in their fields, farms and factories than at the front. By 1916 there was full employment. When revolutionary idealists took action at Easter they were mocked and derided by most, not least by those at war. Some months later those same soldiers fell to machine-gun fire at the Somme.

To be honest, I have mixed feelings for them. I do not share John Bruton’s opinions. They fought and died for the wrong reasons in the wrong war. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.

Sir, – The repugnant barbarism of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and the threat it poses to a large part of the world, cannot be overestimated. The terrorists inflicting these grotesque crimes must be brought to justice. However continued military action against the fanatical group is not the solution.

On the contrary, America’s military involvement in a region plagued by injustice and other social ills is likely to serve as a recruiting tool for extremists.

Islamic State is itself an unintended consequence of our war in Iraq. Today, al-Qaeda is not only in Iraq but has also spread to Yemen, Somalia and Syria. It is its more ruthless offshoot. What the people of the Middle East need most are peace, jobs and justice. Military action by the United States and its regional allies would only add to the bloodshed and intensify the problems that breed extremism. – Yours, etc,


Wainsfort Manor Crescent,


Dublin 6W.

Sir, – I have nothing but sympathy for Ray Carey (August 30th), Rachael Stanley (September 3rd) and the doubtless many others who have been advised by priests like myself that they may not have secular music, eulogies or offertory processions, including non-liturgical items, at funerals.

We try to implement what we have been given to believe are liturgical norms which should apply everywhere and in every situation. We need guidance, direction and instruction in this. We need leadership from the bishops of Ireland. I’ll bring this to the AGM of the Association of Catholic Priests at the beginning of next month. I hope that sooner rather than later we will have a definitive set of norms which will apply in all the dioceses of Ireland so that no one will ever again feel aggrieved at what they, rightly, see as unfair treatment.

I would add that such norms should not be difficult to put together. Any priest working in pastoral situations every day of the week could draw them up in his sleep! – Yours, etc,


Moville, Co Donegal.

Sir, – A total of 79 Guantánamo prisoners, considered low-level risks, have been awaiting release for several years, but the US Congress refuses to allow them be released in the US, and the US has been unable to persuade other countries to take them. In addition 70 higher risk prisoners should be transferred to prisons in the US, where they would be subject to US constitutional laws, including habeas corpus proceedings, but this is also blocked by Congress.

Some prisoners have been in Guantánamo for over 12 years without trial. Two Uighur prisoners from Guantánamo were resettled in Ireland in 2009.

As a humanitarian gesture Ireland should offer to resettle more prisoners from Guantánamo, particularly given that the Irish Government facilitated the transfer of prisoners to Guantánamo by allowing CIA and US military aircraft that were engaged in the so-called extraordinary rendition programme to be refuelled at Shannon airport.

Some prisoners on hunger strike are being forced fed, and at least nine prisoners have died in Guantánamo, including six by suspected suicide.– Yours, etc,



Castletroy, Limerick.

Sir, – I would like to respectfully correct a couple of misconceptions in Eugene Tannam’s letter (September 2nd).

First, describing the Barrow towpath as it stands today as having “survived . . . without interference” is not quite accurate. The Barrow Navigation was originally a commercial waterway, and the towpath was what we might today term a “service road”, built to allow the towing horses to pull cargo barges along the river and navigation canals.

Today’s much narrowed and overgrown route is merely the result of the falling into disuse of the navigation; the roadway would in fact originally have been “tamed and flattened”, as your correspondent describes the current move to restore a strip of it.

Second, the notion that a greenway would attract vandals seeking to dump unwanted white goods is unfounded, as anyone in Mayo can verify. Whatever its limitations as a tourism destination because of its short length, the Great Western Greenway has never suffered from dumping.

It has, however, transformed towns like Newport from near dereliction to thriving places that not only attract tourists but that are now great places to live.

As an Irishman living in mainland Europe, I would love to see a greenway connecting Dublin with St Mullins; it would allow me to take my family to Ireland on cycling holidays. Currently, Ireland is the only country in Europe lacking such trails, and like thousands of other would-be tourists, we have to go elsewhere.

Build it, and we will come. – Yours, etc,


Avenue des Rogations,


Sir, – The pantheon of glory surrounding the achievement of the 1998 peace agreement is becoming very crowded. Shortly, among the notable dignitaries we are bound to spot Darby O’Gill or Daithí Lacha in the tumultuous gathering, but there is a distinct and noticeable absence. The real achievers of the 1998 agreement are dead, the innocent victims who did not espouse political violence as a virtue, victims of northern intransigence, southern indifference and British duplicity. They had to pay the ultimate sacrifice, without request, and are not around to write biographies or play with their grandchildren.

Peace is a right; shame on those who have to use others to “achieve” it. – Yours, etc,


Monalea Park,

Firhouse, Dublin 24.

Sir, – Like many others, I have a great liking for a biscuit with a cup of tea. In latter years, I find myself to be a victim of anonymous shelf-stackers.

Time and time again there are broken biscuits at either end of the packages. Apart from my abandoning biscuits entirely, is there any other solution to this frantic style of shelf-stacking? – Yours, etc,


Lower Dodder Road,


Dublin 14

Sir, – Will the roundabout outside the Dublin venue formerly known as the O2 be renamed the “Three Point Turn”? – Yours, etc,


Pembroke Square,


Dublin 4.

Irish Independent:

It’s terrible to be old and apparently still as stupid as ever.

There was I, fully convinced that if Light-fingered Fred and Slippery Sam printed a few million in some back-street basement it would constitute criminal counterfeiting.

I understood this was because such nefarious activities might possibly cause people to distrust the purchasing power of the cash in their pockets or accounts and possibly even destabilise the whole trust-based monetary system.

Now I see that the money maestros are going to conjure up €40bn out of thin air – with basically nothing solid to back it up but a wavering, unproven hope that it might boost flagging European economies!

But, apparently, if you do this and call it quantitative easing, it is somehow magically trans-muted into legitimate financial practice.

But now, a vague, persistent memory seems to be struggling to resurrect itself – the ominous memory of the recent sub-prime mortgage madness.

I also cannot forget its eventual – and continuing – Armageddon-like financial consequences for countless millions of hapless, innocent victims.

George MacDonald

Gorey, Co Wexford


Quotas are for fish, not women

The debate rumbles on about gender equality in Irish politics. Quotas are constantly referred to as a method of achieving this. Surely if there is a genuine desire to have gender equality, then the only and best way to achieve this is to have an equal number of seats designated for male and female representatives in all political bodies, including the Dail?

Voters would simply vote for their male representatives on one ballot paper and vote for their female representatives on a separate ballot paper.

Quotas are for farming and fishing, not for women. If Irish society genuinely wants equality in political representation, then perhaps this suggestion deserves some serious debate?

Fred Meaney

Dalkey, Co Dublin


Keep prayers in state schools

Paul Doran asks why prayers are still said in state schools, and in the process makes a claim for a secular society (Letters, Irish Independent, September 3). The simple reason is that Ireland is a sovereign republic. This merely means that the citizens elect their representatives to government.

There is absolutely no reason for the government of a republic to discriminate in favour of, or promote, secular dogma. Indeed, in view of the fact that the most recent state census revealed 92pc of the population identifying as Christian, it is quite appropriate that Christian prayer should be incorporated in the school system.

Eric Conway

Navan, Co Meath


Lack of student digs

Securing a place in the college of your dreams can be difficult enough as it is without the extra pressure of asking ‘will I receive student accommodation’?

Today’s young adults are faced with this dreadful situation as the new term begins again. Many students attending Dublin colleges this year are being forced to commute every day in order to attend lectures, or, even worse, lose out on a place in the college of their choice.

This crisis is clearly hindering further education for students. Dublin city council are said to be in talks about a “30-year plan” while Lord Mayor Christy Burke says actions are better than words. So will they devise a plan? Who knows?

In addition to the evident lack of accommodation, students are panicking as prices sky-rocket. economist Ronan Lyons says, “Rents in Dublin are now 7.5pc higher than a year previously.”

This dramatic price increase in Dublin has parents, and students starting their first year, in utter shock and disbelief. As a secondary school student, I worry that this lack of student accommodation may affect my third-level education. I urge the Government to do something about this immediately.

Jennifer Lynch

Address with Editor


Fighting Ebola scourge offline

Ebola is a horrible and nightmarish disease, which is bound to wreak more social and economic mayhem, if it remains uncontrolled.

Most people lack the knowledge and skills to recognise early symptoms, detect the virus, monitor its evolution and make a robust diagnosis differentiating it from similar ailments such as typhoid fever, malaria, Marburg disease and Lassa fever, among others.

The world is short of 7.2 million healthcare workers. The fragility of health systems in affected countries, which are just emerging from the traumas of civil unrest, makes an already difficult situation more complex still.

Also, only 31pc have internet access in developing countries.

The WHO should exploit this awful opportunity to assume its role at the vanguard of combating this global menace by promoting offline e-learning. This could be the magic bullet to disseminate knowledge in remote and resource-limited settings where there is shortage of staff, equipment and internet connectivity.

Dr Munjed Farid Al Qutob

London NW2, UK


Threat of fundamentalism

History tells us that the church hierarchy, with the best of intentions of course, ignored and disobeyed, Christ’s solemn and repeated warnings never to use human power.

Very early on, the Vatican succumbed to the same old temptation, the male lust for power, to the point where those in control there were claiming spiritual and secular power over the whole world, and the whole human race.

The theologians kept pace, building up a framework to justify the Vatican’s claims of spiritual and secular control – a global theocracy based on the Bible. The male clergy were brain-washed, starting young. It was dangerous to disagree. Terrible things were done in the name of the Prince of Peace.

Is it not ironic that Islam’s theologians today are following exactly the same pattern, based on the Koran? Their male clergy are brain-washed, starting young. Terrible things are being done in the name of Allah. These latests atrocities are not just sporadic; this is a mass movement, determined to establish global spiritual and secular control.

The Islamic fundamentalist teachers are behind it. The West does not yet understand the scope of this movement.

Sean McElgunn

Address with Editor


Exciting times for Scotland

Although English, I sincerely hope the Scottish people seize the historic opportunity next week and vote for independence.

Encouragingly, polls are beginning to point to victory for Alex Salmond‘s SNP. In an independent Scotland, a second plebiscite should be held to abolish the monarchy and offer a democratically elected Scottish head of state, too.

I envy the Rebublic of Ireland, which has senate with elected members instead of an appointed and hereditary House of Lords, and an elected president instead of a monarch. Indeed, should Scotland become independent, reunification of Ireland, more devolution for Wales and a hard look at England’s ridiculous House of Lords and House of Windsor are in the offing. We live in exciting times.

Dominic Shelmerdine

London SW3, UK

Irish Independent


September 7, 2014

7 September 2014 Rain

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A wettish day. I potter around not doing very much at all

Mary’s back not much better today, pork chop for tea and her back pain is still there.


Marjorie Seldon – obituary

Marjorie Seldon was the supportive wife of Arthur Seldon and campaigner for choice in education

Marjorie and Arthur Seldon

Marjorie and Arthur Seldon

6:44PM BST 03 Sep 2014


Marjorie Seldon, who has died aged 94, was the wife of Arthur Seldon, the co-founder and editorial director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, the free market “think tank” which had a profound impact on the policies of the governments of Margaret Thatcher and later Tony Blair.

Born Audrey Marjorie Willett on October 15 1919, she had a difficult upbringing in the shadow of the First World War. Her father, Wilfred , had been shot in the head at Ypres in December 1914 while tending to one of his men in no-man’s-land, cutting short a promising career as a doctor. His life was saved when his young wife, Eileen, travelled by special permit to the base hospital in France to bring him back to England after the doctors had given up on him — a story retold by Jonathan Smith in his novel Wilfred and Eileen.

The experience of growing up with a melancholic and incapacitated father affected Marjorie profoundly. Wilfred sought solace in communism, driving a wedge between him and his close friend Henry Williamson, author of Tarka the Otter, who moved sharply to the Right.

Worse was to come during the Second World War when Marjorie’s first love lost his life in the sinking, in October 1939, of Royal Oak in Scapa Flow. She married and gave birth to a son, but her husband was killed in Egypt in the last months of the war.

Marjorie threw herself into journalism, and fell in love with a young magazine editor, Arthur Seldon, whom she married in secret so as not to distress his Jewish adoptive mother, who would have disapproved of his marrying outside the faith.

Both Arthur’s real parents had died in the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1919 and he had been brought up by a series of adoptive fathers, mostly living in poverty in the East End. The traumas of his early years left their mark in a lifelong stammer and huge self-doubt. Marjorie made it her mission to bolster his self-confidence and to provide emotional tranquillity at home so that he could throw himself wholly into his work, free of any worries. She even learnt to like, if not to love, his two passions outside market economics — cricket and opera.

In 1955 her husband found his vocation when he joined Ralph Harris (later Lord Harris of High Cross) in founding the Institute of Economic Affairs , where he provided much of the intellectual leadership . Marjorie accompanied him on every journey he ever made, including the annual meetings of the Mont Pelerin Society, an international group of free market economists and thinkers.

The Seldons regarded themselves as free market liberals and in their early years together were prominent supporters of the Liberal Party, but later they became disillusioned by the party’s collectivist direction.

Only when her children had left school in the 1970s did Marjorie begin to pursue her own interests again. These included setting up, in 1975, a pressure group called FEVER (Friends of the Education Voucher in Representative Regions) to press for the introduction of education vouchers, a campaign on which she worked closely with her friend (and later Conservative education minister) Rhodes Boyson. An early convert was Keith Joseph. But when the Conservatives were returned to power under Margaret Thatcher in 1979, she was bitterly disappointed that plans to give all parents a choice of schooling went nowhere. She blamed the civil servants for blocking her ideas.

For 25 years Marjorie Seldon ran the family home at a village near Sevenoaks as a political salon . Margaret Thatcher was an early visitor soon after she was elected Conservative leader in 1975; Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman were regular guests. In her latter years she returned to writing, publishing in 1985 an elegant memoir of her early life, Poppies and Roses .

Her husband died in 2005, and she is survived by three sons.

Marjorie Seldon, born October 15 1919, died June 26 2014


Voters could choose one man and one woman.

Voters could choose one man and one woman. Photograph: Demotix/Corbis

“Why all-women shortlists?” asks Catherine Bennett (Comment), and answers herself: “Simple: nothing else works”. An answer that is wrong on two counts. The first is that it wouldn’t work, except in a very piecemeal way. And the second is that there is a straightforward alternative that would definitely work. There is only one way to ensure equal numbers of men and women MPs. It would be for every constituency to return two MPs, one male and one female, both elected by the same mixed electorate.

This would mean a lot of adjustment of constituencies, since no one would want a Commons with twice the number of MPs. It would threaten the careers of a lot of existing MPs. That might be a matter of no significance to most of us but it could make it difficult to get legislation through parliament.  However, if need be, the whole thing could be phased in; as MPs retired their constituency could be combined with a neighbouring constituency and within a generation we’d be there.

But the fact that this way of achieving the claimed objective is never even discussed – the only mainstream politician who has ever advocated it was Tony Benn – is a pretty clear indication that there is no genuine ambition to achieve gender equality in the Commons, not even by those who write columns in newspapers passionately claiming to wish to see it.

Kevin McGrath


Catherine Bennett makes an unanswerable case for the use of all-women shortlists in selecting parliamentary candidates. But I think the shortlists used could be improved by a bit of joined-up thinking, taking into account other disparities in the make-up of parliament.

First, as a report last week repeated yet again, people who were sent to fee-paying schools occupy a proportion of the top positions in British society many times greater than their share of the population. Therefore, as they already benefit from vast positive discrimination, no one who attended a fee-paying school in the UK should be on an all-women shortlist.

Second, to ensure that all-women shortlists do not reinforce another form of discrimination, every such shortlist should include at least one credible black woman candidate.

John Wilson

London NW3

I agreed with Catherine Bennett: if it works, it works. So how about some “all state-educated, non-Oxbridge/LSE, non-political researcher/adviser” shortlists from all parties. That would do even more to give us a more representative parliament.

Chris Stevens

Windsor, Berks

Catherine Bennett endorses all-women shortlists (AWSLs) “in the absence”, so she says, “of any other plan”, when she must know that other plans have been proposed to deal with the imbalance in the representation of the sexes in parliament, for example two-member constituencies, which eliminate the effect of unfairness that the AWSL seems to have in a one-member constituency.

This plan has three possible variants, but the basis of it is that you halve the number of constituencies but let each be represented by two MPs, and then:  (option 1) you can specify that one MP will be a woman and the other a man (ie one all-women and one all-men shortlist) and give every voter two votes; or (option 2) you can compile two separate electoral rolls and let women vote for the woman and men for the man. Or (option 3) you don’t specify the sexes of the MPs but have separate electoral rolls and let women vote for one MP and men for the other.

If you already favour the AWSL, surely you would have to see at least one of these options as an improvement on it.

Christopher Eddy

Swindon, Wilts

‘Josh”, who left Ammanford to work as a male escort. Photograph: Will Storr for the Observer

While I commend Mr Storr’s capacity to write with empathy and a clear lack of judgment regarding the case of “Josh” from Ammanford, I was concerned that his portrayal of this young man was one that would appear incongruous in the extreme if it were a young woman (“A real midnight cowboy“, Magazine). The provocative poses would, I submit, appear grotesque and exploitative.

I was captivated by Mr Storr’s writing. It was therefore even more disappointing that he neglected to mention the structural causes that lead to the once thriving town of Ammanford from offering sustainable, well-paid jobs. Perhaps Mr Storr is right and parents should be proud of their children becoming prostitutes (as long as they are successful photogenic prostitutes). I wonder, however, if his own parents would be similarly proud. I also wonder if Mr Storr himself is going to ask “Josh” to consider offering an internship for his own children (if he has any).

As a father of two boys living in the South Wales valleys, I would prefer campaigning for regional development that will bring jobs to the area that do not require our children to prostitute themselves to rich Londoners.

Kevin Munro


Let’s hear it for the north

Reading Robert Yates’s fascinating piece (“Will the north follow Scotland and search for greater power?“) I couldn’t help but think: why has it taken the north so long to catch up?

Tom Johnston, the visionary secretary of state, set up the Scottish Executive Development Department in 1966. Michael Lynch notes that it “implemented planning on a far more rigorous basis than in any of the English regions. The whole of Scotland, except for Edinburgh, was made a ‘development area'”.  The need consequently to more effectively channel funds and to facilitate business development led to the formation of the Scottish Development Agency in 1975 (from 1991, Scottish Enterprise) and the institution of a programme to tackle the loss of Scotland’s heavy industry. Within the very limited political freedoms available to Scottish legislators in the 50 years from 1947, such semi-autonomous agencies fostered a belief in and the products of national, or regional, if you wish it, self-help. I’m pleased the north has decided to take action.

Roger Emmerson


Movie with a vital message

In the ongoing furore about the recent report concerning child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, could I draw readers’ attention to a campaign that was highlighting this as a national issue more than five years ago. Commissioned by the UK Human Trafficking Centre, and involving consultation with organisations such as Childline, NSPCC and the Family Planning Association, an important, small-budget film was made in Sheffield, in 2008, called My Dangerous Loverboy. It forms part of an educational resources pack, intended to be used to train police, social workers, health professionals and teachers and for use in schools and colleges, to alert children themselves to the risks.

I urge all those caring for children and young people, whether families or professionals, to watch it.

Kate Cowell


Austerity only works one way

Will Hutton is concerned the turmoil in France (as part of the wider euro-zone crisis) might result in France leaving the EU, with subsequent beggar-thy-neighbour economic policies and competitive devaluation (“France is in turmoil as advocates of austerity and investment fight it out“, Comment). However, arguably such policies predate and are a major cause of the crisis. In the supposed golden years of the euro, from 2000 to 2007, German real wages declined by some 9%. This austerity amounted to devaluation, effectively leaving the southern eurozone nations unable to compete. In response, many of these latter have also adopted austerity, increasing pressure on France to abandon her progressive economic policies.

In the context of a competitive international economy, austerity is only a useful policy if other nations refrain from its adoption. Competitiveness is, after all, a relative concept, not an absolute. Although, to each nation considered in isolation austerity makes some sense, for the continent as a whole it spells stagnation (at best).

Kevin Albertson

Manchester Metropolitan University

Do it on TV like they do on TV

Peter Preston has a justifiable go at the arcane set of rules governing the party leaders’ election debates (“If we want better debates, we need a new rule book“, News). Surely Peter, like every real politician and political journalist, is an aficionado of the American TV series The West Wing. If so, he will recall the Democrat and Republican candidates stepping out for their final television debate and the Republican candidate, played by Alan Alda, saying to his opponent, played by Jimmy Smits: “Shall we just forget all the rules and debate the issues?”

There followed an enthralling political debate apparently improvised by the two actors. If a lead can be given by actors in fiction it should be easy to do it with real politicians!

Michael Meadowcroft


Snapshot Jane Lamb new Snapshot … Jane Lamb’s father, Elliott, in Crete, 1941. Photograph: PR

Snapshot: Dad’s lucky wartime escape

This is my father, Elliott, in Crete in 1941. He was a despatch rider in the British army and had sent the photograph on a postcard to my grandmother. She had not seen him since he and his brother had set off for a Territorial Army camp in the summer of 1939. He had been sent to France when the second world war broke out and was later evacuated to Crete from Athens, following Germany’s invasion of Greece. He was nearly 21.

My father found himself in the chaos that surrounded the evacuation of Crete. German paratroopers were invading the island and the message went out to all troops to head for the beaches at Souda Bay, a treacherous ride through the mountains. He rode his motorbike until it ran out of fuel and walked the rest of the way.

He joined the thousands of Allied troops (Australians, British, New Zealanders) waiting to be evacuated. Boats came and went and still my father waited. Three days later, still stranded, he fell into conversation with an Australian soldier. He said he was worried he would end up as a prisoner of war if he didn’t get on the next boat.

The call went out for the Australians to board. The Australian soldier suggested that my father go on with him: their uniforms were the same colour. In a split second, my father removed the British insignia from his uniform and went aboard. It turned out to be the last boat off the island.

If he had hesitated, he would have been captured and spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of the Germans. He survived the journey to Alexandria, Egypt, and was picked to join Montgomery’s Intelligence Corps.

I was proud of my father’s daring, and never questioned whether he was right or wrong to do what he did. He did not talk about the war and the only proof we children had that he had served was a pair of “Nazi sunglasses”; a treasure that fascinated us.

He died when I was 23 and I did not have a chance to hear the story from him first-hand.

An uncle (who is now in his 90s but has a razor-sharp memory) told me recently that my account missed out an important detail.

One of the Australians in charge had pulled out a gun and pointed it at my father, saying that he would shoot him if he dared to join the Australian boat.

I would have loved to have heard my father tell his story. I have collected what fragments of the story I can, in honour of his memory.

Jane Lamb


The parents of those pupils attending free schools, whether new or relatively new, need to be assured of the quality of education their children receive (“Hundreds set to start the year in new free schools”, 31 August). It is important that free schools be inspected on the same basis as other schools. Ofsted should draw up a common inspection framework which acknowledges the particular aims and purposes of each school, whatever its type, and provides an overall evaluation of how successful the school is in relation to these. Devising and implementing such a framework will not be easy but fairness demands it.

Professor Colin Richards

Spark Bridge, Cumbria

What happens if most of those in the region of Eastern Ukraine prefer to be associated with Moscow rather than Kiev (“Kremlin takes Kiev to the brink of war”, 31 August)? Can someone please explain how any coalition against Russia, based on Ukraine recovering territory in the east of the country, can be feasible when a significant majority of the inhabitants of that region primarily speak Russian and may not wish to be “liberated”? It is high time we ceased to talk about “nations” and “states” and instead worked towards federations and regions that reflect reality and have the potential of a lasting peace.

Michael Meadowcroft


Our leaders seem intent on talking themselves into a war. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is denounced as a cynical and aggressive expansionist. But look at the map of Europe, with 12 new Nato members since the fall of the Soviet Union, and many pushing right up to the Russian borders. General Sir Richard Shirreff (“Nato is at a crossroads”, 31 August) wants money poured into rearmament and restructuring of Nato forces so that they can fight “high-end conventional warfare”. Of course, as any simpleton knows, these days no conventional war in Europe could ever possibly turn nuclear. It is true that Shirreff does admit that “long term, we have to live with Russia”. Unfortunately it seems he believes that in the short term we have to die with them first.

Steve Edwards

Wivelsfield Green, East Sussex

DJ Taylor bemoans the lack of universal stars in this day and age (“Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?”, 31 August). Could it be due to the fact that the media is much more fragmented, with individual newspapers and television shows no longer having followings of more than 10 million people? On the other hand, we have a culture which follows the dictum that everyone can be famous for 15 minutes. Not, of course, that today’s youngsters would know who said that, despite being aware of the contestants on this year’s Strictly Come Dancing!

Tim Mickleburgh

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

Donald MacLeod complains that Scotland’s disproportionate contribution to Britain’s wars “is never mentioned by war historians” (Letters, 31 August). On the first page of Niall Ferguson’s The Pity of War, 1914-18 (Penguin, 1998) the author comments on Scotland’s heavy casualty rate – exceeded only by Serbia and Turkey – and its commitment to the war effort in general. Maybe this was the only book on the war Mr MacLeod didn’t get round to reading.

Professor Alan Knight

St Antony’s College, Oxford

John Rentoul is spot on about the “anti-politics” politics that Ukip and Douglas Carswell are seeking to promote (“Could Carswell be a Trotskyite in disguise?”, 31 August). Short of making a revolution, the choices that would confront any Ukip-tinged government, in the unlikely event that such a thing might happen, would be different only in degrees from those currently facing David Cameron.

Some of those differences might well be quite significant – which is why as Rentoul notes, Carswell’s talk of it not mattering much who is in No 10 is so cynical – but they would still not be fundamental ones.

Keith Flett

London N17


A diplomatic avenue is vital to resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has seen destruction wrought by both sides A diplomatic avenue is vital to resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has seen destruction wrought by both sides (DMITRY BELIAKOV)

The West’s antagonism of Russia will only hurt Ukraine

I ENJOY Dominic Lawson’s columns but I must take issue with his analysis of the situation in Ukraine and more specifically Vladimir Putin’s credentials as a tactician (“Russian boys are dying, Mr Putin — and it’ll be your downfall”, Comment, last week).

I only had to look at another article in the same section (“What invasion?”, Focus) for evidence that contradicts his assertion that there is growing public dissatisfaction in Russia over the Ukraine conflict. It stated that “the military action has propelled Putin’s approval rating from 61% last November to a near record 84%”.

The West has to change its strategy to one of amelioration or it will be Ukraine that bears the brunt. Its economy will implode. I don’t understand why the West wants to poke the Russian bear. There has been talk about Ukraine joining Nato, and some of the more hysterical reporting on the downed Malaysia Airlines flight practically had Putin firing the missile.

At a time when the Middle East is in flames, with all the associated risks, we should be seeking to move closer to Russia, not alienating it.
Alexis Vatistas, London SE21


Western newspapers are being manipulated by Kiev over the events in Ukraine. Russia’s armed forces could take the country in a week if they wanted to, and they will not be deterred by a Nato rapid reaction force of 10,000 men. Why is it unacceptable for Russia to have concerns over the stability and safety of its borders? It’s time to end this foolish medieval jousting and to encourage some diplomacy.
Bill Haymes, Coventry


While discussing the dissidents in eastern Ukraine, we should not forget our own ones in Northern Ireland. Thank God we were not burdened during the Troubles with summits between foreign leaders in distant parts of the world, with little grasp of the complex issues involved, discussing whether to arm the IRA or put “boots on the ground”.
Anne Downer, Shrewsbury


Putin is well aware that Europe is economically, politically and militarily weak. Barack Obama will not get involved. Europe should have known that pushing its influence into Russia’s back yard was likely to end in EU humiliation and Russia being emboldened. As a result, Crimea has gone, eastern Ukraine is likely to go and many have died.

Sanctions hurt both sides but as Russia is in effect a dictatorship, the people will have to put up with any hardship. If Putin is pushed too hard, the gas will be turned off. We need to escape from this EU foolishness — our influence is very limited.
Paul Ashfield, Harrogate

Tory fingers on the self-destruct button

WHAT is the matter with the Tories (“Dangerous game of the Trotskyites of the right”, Editorial, and “Rebel Tories hold Ukip gun to PM’s head over Europe”, News, last week)? Once again they are on a self-destructive course just when they should be celebrating an extraordinary recovery from the financial collapse that followed yet another disastrous socialist administration.

The UK is outperforming America and Germany, even though these countries had an economic boost from fracking, in the US, and cheap Russian gas, in Germany. This makes George Osborne the most successful chancellor since the war. Yet there were constant assertions from Professor David Blanchflower and Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, among others, that the country would go into a double-dip recession if Osborne continued his policies. How wrong could anyone be?
George Davies, Loughton, Essex


Is there something about the air in Clacton that induces political madness? According to opinion polls, the Tory defector Douglas Carswell can expect to win for Ukip with a two-to-one majority in the by-election, in spite of his claims that he does not care who the next prime minister is because he thinks David Cameron and Ed Miliband are pretty much the same. I understood that Ukip’s — and therefore Carswell’s — key objective was to get out of Europe, so how strange to compare one leader who is prepared to offer a referendum on the EU to one who isn’t.

Given that Ukip is unlikely to form a government, or even to join a coalition, after the next general election, it’s hard to understand the motive behind Carswell’s treachery. Britain’s role in Europe will be decided by a referendum, not Nigel Farage’s barroom bragging.
John Azzopardi, Sorède, France

Kissinger ignores legacy of US interventions

HENRY KISSINGER (“The world in flames”, News Review, last week) gives us an instructive analysis of the ideologies currently driving jihadist movements. What he does not mention is that America during most of the last century and this has itself failed to observe the Westphalian principles of non-interference in the affairs of independent states and has often intervened to further its own ends.

It is not fanciful to think that this has contributed to the widespread resentment among young Muslims, which, although not justifying the present fanaticism, partly explains its emergence.

If we believe that democracy represents the way forward, maybe the only way to confront jihadists effectively is to admit our past errors and to promote our own values simply through argument, example and assistance. It will take time, but, as David Cameron says, we are in for a long struggle.
Mike Lynch, Waterbeach, Cambridge


Kissinger airbrushes the cynical French and British carve-up of the Near East after the traumatic collapse of the Ottoman sultanate. Likewise there is no mention of the US policy of supporting repressive regimes when they serve its purpose and overthrowing them when they cease to do so.
Alasdair Frew-Bell, Manchester


Reflecting on the Middle East tinderbox, Kissinger makes no mention of Israel — a good example of US foreign-policy double standards. The Camp David peace protocols agreed on by America with Israel were completely ignored by the latter, and Kissinger assumed the nation’s power could not be challenged. Thus, no real peace ensued with the Palestinians.
Paul Harty Mqabba, Malta

Rotherham care workers not all apathetic

I AGREE with Camilla Cavendish’s article “How to make our children safe” (Focus, last week), apart from one point. Not all Rotherham care workers shrugged as the girls left the residential homes. One is stated as saying he ensured the men saw that he was noting down their car registration numbers. I understand the details were passed to the police but no action was taken. I don’t think that care workers are able to physically restrain the girls.

How many of these girls would have been better off staying with parents with help from the social services? We also need police action in Rotherham to arrest as many of these men as possible to send out a clear message that we will not tolerate this in our country. What is the point of having an age of consent if the police can then pretend they know better? If officers can spend time investigating Cliff Richard, they can reopen these cases.
Lynda Darnall, Aston, South Yorkshire


As a UK citizen of Pakistani origin and a father of a daughter, I do not understand why we are allowing this awful abuse. The police should investigate and prosecute these heinous acts regardless of race, colour or religion, and the whole community of whatever background should demand action.
Amir Kazmi, London W14


Yet again vulnerable children were failed, not only by Denis MacShane, the former Labour MP for Rotherham, but by other elected representatives and agencies, too. It is a cover -up of criminal acts in order that these representatives can stay in power and carry on their comfortable, conscience-free lives. I don’t know how they sleep at night.
Yvonne Swain, Birmingham


Thank you for distinguishing clearly that the abusers in Rotherham were Pakistani, not simply Asian, which is a very broad term for a huge continent.
Anand Srivastava, Hounslow, London


WE HOPE the exciting technology mentioned in your article “Artificial micro-humans may replace animals in lab tests” (News, last week) will become mainstream within three years as predicted. Meanwhile, other human-based technologies are already available that could be improving patient safety here and now. The impediment is not science but political will.

Public pressure to curb animal testing has been resisted for fear this would cost human lives, but a landmark study has revealed that apparent safety in animal tests provides no assurance of human safety. Thus patients are exposed to greater risks than previously realised, both in clinical trials and as consumers of medicines. We urge the government to act now to harness scientific advances that could reduce the toll of adverse drug reactions (ADRs), which kill more than 10,000 in the UK every year.

Across Europe, more people die of ADRs than of breast or prostate cancer — equivalent to the passengers of one jumbo jet every day.

Kathy Archibald, Director, Safer Medicines Trust,; Dr Kelly BéruBé, Director, Lung and Particle Research Group, Cardiff University; Dr Bob Coleman, UK Science Director, Safer Medicines Trust; Professor Michael Coleman, School of Life and Health Sciences, Aston University; Professor Chris Foster, Emeritus Professor of Pathology, Liverpool University; Professor Barbara Pierscionek, Associate Dean, Kingston University Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing; Dr Katya Tsaioun, preclinical drug discovery research, Safer Medicines Trust; Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, Medical Research Council Centre for Regenerative Medicine, Edinburgh University



We are pleased that wanted babies are given state-of-the- art care in a few hospitals (“Abortion reform call as record number of babies survive birth at 23 weeks”, News, last week). However, birth survival rates should not be the leading factor. Women make the decision to terminate their pregnancy at later stages for a variety of reasons such as domestic violence or ill health. Many face delays and barriers, including getting two doctors’ signatures — abortion being the only medical procedure that requires this. This is in a climate where one in five GPs declare they are anti-abortion and cuts to NHS services are affecting waiting times.
Kerry Abel, Abortion Rights, London E8


Why do the imams who have placed a fatwa on Muslims joining Islamic State claim there is a moral duty for British Muslims to support the people of Iraq and Syria (“UK imams put fatwa on jihadists”, News, last week)? Surely what goes on in the Middle East is none of their business.
Dr Michael Paraskos, London SE7

Corrections and clarifications

In the article “Fully loaded” (Magazine, last week) we stated: “More police officers routinely carry weapons in the Metropolitan police service than in any other force in the UK — 2,155 out of a total of 31,000.” The figures related to England and Wales only. We apologise for the error.

Complaints about inaccuracies in all sections of The Sunday Times, including online, should be addressed to or Complaints, The Sunday Times, 1 London Bridge Street, London SE1 9GF. In addition, from tomorrow, the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) will examine formal complaints about the editorial content of UK newspapers and magazines. Click here for full details of how to lodge a complaint.


Marcel Desailly, footballer, 46; Michael Feinstein, singer and pianist, 58; Gloria Gaynor, singer, 65; Angela Gheorghiu, soprano, 49; Peter Gill, stage director and playwright, 75; Chrissie Hynde, singer, 63; Toby Jones, actor, 48; Julie Kavner, voice of Marge Simpson, 64; Sonny Rollins, jazz saxophonist, 84


1533 birth of Elizabeth I; 1836 birth of Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, Liberal PM; 1838 Grace Darling helps her father row to the rescue of shipwreck survivors off Northumberland; 1936 birth of singer Buddy Holly; 1940 London Blitz begins; 1978 Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov is poisoned with an umbrella in London


PR independence trinkets are displayed by supporters outside the Birnam Highland Games in Perthshire, Scotland Photo: AFP/Getty

6:56AM BST 06 Sep 2014


SIR – I am amazed that discussions on Scottish independence are so short-sighted, centred on the present state of the NHS, welfare cuts or current defence spending.

Are the Scottish people really deciding the irreversible future of their country on arguments about present Westminster policies? Can they not see beyond the next few years, and realise that prime ministers and governments change? Even President Salmond would not be in power for ever.

Richard Durley
Linton, Cambridgeshire

SIR – Contrary to Alex Salmond’s assertion that the Bank of England was established for the whole of Great Britain, it was actually founded in 1694, when Scotland had a parliament in Edinburgh and the bank’s jurisdiction did not extend north of the border.

Although privately owned until 1946, since 1844 it has been the only organisation licensed to issue bank notes in England and Wales. In 1845 three Scottish banks that already issued notes were licensed to continue doing so, provided that any excess over the notes issued before 1845 were matched by English notes, coins and interest-bearing securities held at the Bank of England.

With a severance of the Union, the Scots will still be able to continue to produce their own notes, without their necessarily being required to maintain the collateral in London. How soon would it be before the market discounted the Scottish notes and the “Scottish pound” began to fall in value?

Guy Sainty
London W1

Jacobean Joan

SIR – Joan Rivers’s advice, No man will ever put his hand up your dress looking for a library card,” has some lineage.

In his Playgoing in Shakespeare’s London, Andrew Gurr relates an anecdote from Peacham’s Compleat Gentleman (1622). A tradesman giving his wife leave to attend a play in the city warned her to have care of her purse. She returned to say she had lost it while sitting among some gallants in a box.

“Quoth her husband, ‘Where did you put it?’

‘Under my petticoat, between that and my smock.’

‘What (quoth he), did you feel nobody’s hand there?’

‘Yes (quoth she), I felt one’s hand there, but I did not think he had come for that.’ ”

Michael Harrison
Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

Sky-high prices

SIR – Having spotted an attractive bird-themed calendar for 2015 in our local newsagents, and thinking I had time on my side until the New Year, I took it to their post office counter and asked how much it would cost to send by sea to New Zealand.

After much shuffling of papers I was told there is no longer a sea-mail postage service to New Zealand and it would have to go by air. The cost of airmailing it was the same as for the calendar, bar a few pence. I put it back on the shelf.

Geraldine Guthrie
Winchester, Hampshire

Shark practice

SIR – “Sharks kill more men than women” (report, September 5). I think statistics will show that women kill more men than sharks.

Nigel Hawkins
Braunton, Devon

Colour of service

SIR – Until fairly recently, police uniforms were dark blue. Now they are black.

Blue is the traditional colour of service. What does black signify?

D A Edwards

The Chinese contribution in the First World War

SIR – As we remember those who contributed in the Great War, I hope that due tribute will be paid to the thousands of members of the Chinese Labour Corps, many of whom helped to build the trenches in northern France. At least 2,000 are buried in war cemeteries in France, Belgium and England.

In early 1960 I was involved in the handover of the RAF’s No 3 Maintenance Unit at Milton, near Didcot, to the Army, and part of the real estate included a small Chinese camp and burial ground. The Chinese there were the descendants of members of the Chinese Labour Corps who had been allowed to settle in England after the war, and while my Army colleague was somewhat dismayed at the prospect of taking on responsibility for the camp, the transfer was an all-or-nothing deal.

I have often wondered what became of the Chinese camp and its inhabitants, and have occasionally tried to find it, though without success. I imagine that when the Army moved out and the depot became the Didcot industrial estate, the Chinese camp was bulldozed, but it would be interesting to know if anyone else has any memories of this little piece of history.

Air Cdre D M Waller RAF (rtd)
Arundel, West Sussex

SIR – The first British officer to win a Victoria Cross in the Great War was an Irishman, Lieutenant Maurice Dease, 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers, posthumously awarded the VC for his gallantry at Nimy Bridge, August 23 1914.

The London Gazette reported: “Though two or three times badly wounded, he continued to control the fire of his machine guns at Mons on 23rd August, until all his men were shot. He died of his wounds.”

He is buried at St Symphorien Military Cemetery, Belgium.

Liam Nolan
Adare, Co Limerick, Ireland

Dusting off museum stores for object lessons

Let children examine artefacts up close for a better understanding of history

A Norman walrus-ivory game counter (c1175) and a salt cellar from 17th-century Benin

A Norman walrus-ivory game counter (c1175) and a salt cellar from 17th-century Benin  Photo: Carisbrooke Castle Museum/ the British Museum

6:59AM BST 06 Sep 2014


SIR – The Dorman Museum at Middlesbrough used to run an excellent scheme which I used as a history teacher. We could borrow a whole box of artefacts, plus large posters to enhance our lessons (“History to be taught using 100 objects“). Thus, 11- and 12-year-olds could handle Egyptian mummified cats and Roman pottery. These boxes of delights were available for all schools in the area, and I used one box a year. Everything was carefully returned intact.

I hope that some of the objects gathering dust in museum stores will be put into circulation once more.

Christine Weightman
Ascot, Berkshire

Two US F-15C’s (L and R) and a Canadian F-18 (C) take part in a flypast over the Nato 2014 Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, South Wales Photo: CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images

7:00AM BST 06 Sep 2014


IR – David Cameron’s bellicose rhetoric on the threat posed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and Islamist terrorists sounds increasingly meaningless. He promises to use everything we have in our armoury to wipe out Islamist terrorists.

This is just another example of Mr Cameron grandstanding and I have little confidence that he will be able to deliver.

Angus McPherson
Findon, West Sussex

SIR – The payment of ransoms to terrorist groups by Germany, Italy, France and Spain, contravening a G8 agreement, is an outrage. These countries have done this in the full knowledge that it is British and American citizens that are being murdered by the very terrorists such payments support.

We do not belong in any form of close political union with these countries.

Dr David Cottam
Dormansland, Surrey

SIR – During the Cold War, territorial expansion of the Soviet Union was prevented only by the presence of strong and committed Nato forces in Europe.

Those forces have now either departed or been severely weakened. Without the military might of the United States (less likely to be committed by President Barack Obama), Nato today is but a paper tiger, a fact that Vladimir Putin will be well aware of. Unless he is faced with robust, well-armed opposition in the east of Ukraine, it is likely that it will go the same way as Crimea.

Gp Capt Michael Clegg (retd)
Market Drayton, Shropshire

SIR – President Putin’s revelation that it is his nuclear forces that make him confident his policy will not lead to war with Nato cuts both ways; similar confidence in the underlying deterrent balance explains relative Western public calm before Russian tanks on the Ukrainian border. This confidence will remain rational only if the Western side of the balance is carefully maintained.

This, combined with a dwindling American focus on Europe, ought to put paid to talk of not modernising British forces or of inferior prescriptions such as a three-boat force or cruise missiles.

To maintain our guard, however, will be expensive, and strain an already depleted military budget. It would be intolerable to add the cost of relocating the Clydeside bases should Scotland vote “Yes”. I hope that, in that event, a robust UK approach to the details of independence would demand a free, long-term British sovereign base status, or another guarantee for the nuclear facilities.

If an independent Scotland proved unwilling to make this contribution to our collective security, our fellow European Union members and Nato allies would surely understand our vetoing any Scottish application to join those organisations.

Professor Sir Laurence Martin
London WC1

Irish Times:

Irish Independent:

Madam – Right now An Taoiseach is donning his ‘worried face’. (This is carried in a briefcase by an advisor who is never further than fifty feet away from him.)

Our Great Caring Leader says we must not put Irish UN troops at risk on the Golan Heights and claims ministers are wondering whether we are facing an Irish version of ‘Dutch Srebenica.’

He is correctly concerned for the safety of our troops. But the broader picture which would be presented by a UN withdrawal is somewhat more complex. Peacekeeping is not a hobby which employs a few of the lads and lassies in exotic locales. It reflects the overall reality of how this planet is managed. This is as relevant to Irish bread and butter issues as the more obvious concerns.

During the summer, we were ice-bucketed with squeals and squeaks demanding that the so-called international community do something about various global threats.

But there is neither the political will nor the executive, economic, financial or military power to do anything significant. And the advocates of ‘might is right’ have nothing but contempt for the genteel, ineffective and largely aspirational international community.

The reality of the 21st century is that whatever we do in this tiny, open Irish national entity is entirely dependent upon external forces and conditions, and that we could be set utterly at naught by even the most minor shock or failure of that old international community.

The ‘heavies’ who prowl our global jungle looking for prey are facing only paper kittens – and they know it too. The UN, the EU and the USA can and will do nothing. The real politics must address the failure of himankind to manage this otherwise doomed planet.

At a time when we must make the quantum leap towards building a genuine international community, all we seem to get from our political elite is ignorance, incomprehension, indifference and silence.

Where are the young Irish men and women who will have to live in this world and work to pass on what they can save to their grandchildren?

Maurice O’Connell, Tralee, Co Kerry

Sunday Independent

Peter Rice

September 6, 2014

6 September 2014 Peter Rice

I jog around the park I still have arthritis in my left knee, but I manage to get round the park. A warmish day. Peter Rice coms fixes drain book shelves and wine racks. I collect my prescription

Mary’s back not much better today, pork chop for tea and her back pain is still there.


Tony Hickson – obituary

Tony Hickson was a food industry entrepreneur who was born in a workhouse and became known as the ‘King of Pickles’

Tony Hickson, the 'King of Pickles'

Tony Hickson, the ‘King of Pickles’ Photo: CHRIS DAVEY/KENTISH GAZETTE

5:18PM BST 05 Sep 2014


Tony Hickson, who has died aged 87, made his name as the “King of Pickles” in the food industry, after setting up his own company, Humber Pickles, in the 1950s; in the 1970s with the “Beetroot King” Jack Lowe, he was involved in a “reverse takeover” of the debt-ridden Hazlewood Foods, which they led through a period of rapid growth.

But, as he confessed in his memoir The Musical Pickle Man’s Tail, Hickson’s flair for business was accompanied by bouts of mental instability and difficulties in personal relationships which caused the breakdown of two marriages and the near collapse of the third, periods in psychiatric care and one suicide attempt.

By his own account Tony Hickson was conceived “across a pile of pickling onions” in May 1926 at a Hull pickling factory when the factory boss, Sydney Warden, took advantage of Tony’s mother, Olive Hickson, a 15-year-old worker at the plant. Expelled from the family home for conceiving her child out of wedlock, she gave birth on February 16 1927 in the West Hull workhouse.

Tony was transferred to the care of his maternal grandmother and step-grandfather, a casual dockworker, and it was only when he was about 10 that he discovered that the woman he thought of as his sister was, in fact, his mother. His father, meanwhile, had lived for some years in Denmark managing a pickle works for Crosse & Blackwell before returning to Hull where, after the war, he set up his own onion pickling business in a run-down area of the city.

After leaving school, Tony Hickson volunteered for service in Bomber Command and trained as a flight mechanic, but was discharged from the service after an incident when, in his sleep, he nearly throttled a fellow serviceman sleeping in the next door bed, while dreaming that he had found his girlfriend with another man.

After the war he joined his father in the pickling business and helped him to expand and diversify into products such as piccalilli and sandwich spread. He was furious when his father sold the business without telling him (he recalled that when his father died his widow had tried to persuade Tony to sign a document “for and on behalf of an unknown number of illegitimate half-brothers and half-sisters, the children of Sydney Warden Esquire” under which he undertook to make no claim on his estate).

Although Hickson agreed to stay on as manager, the new owner made his life impossible, and the business soon failed. In 1950 he set up his own business, Humber Foods, which, over the next 20 years, he developed into the largest privately-owned pickle company in the country.

As chairman of the pickles and sauces section of the Food and Drink Federation, Hickson became involved in negotiations with Brussels after Britain’s entry into the EEC, although he found it tragic that so much time was wasted deciding “what size and colour a pickled gherkin should be or how much spice should be in a jar of red cabbage”. He was particularly irritated by the imposition of “sell-by” dates on pickles which improve the longer they are kept.

The reverse takeover of Hazlewood Foods in 1977 allowed Hickson to trade as a PLC under the Hazlewood name and the company expanded rapidly through a series of takeovers. By the mid-1980s it had become a highly-rated “glamour stock” and was considering making a bid for Northern Foods. Following disagreements with fellow board members, however, Hickson took early retirement in 1986 . Later he began his own business consultancy.

From his school days Hickson had been passionate about classical music, and from the 1970s he served as a member of the board, and later chairman and president, of the Hull Philharmonic Orchestra. He sponsored stars such as Paul Tortellier and Segovia to play with the orchestra, and in the late 1980s came to its rescue during a time of financial crisis.

Throughout his life, however, Hickson (who at various times sported a waxed moustache à la Hercule Poirot) had suffered from mood swings and severe bouts of mental instability, which he blamed, in part, on the concussion he had suffered as a result of a sporting accident at school (in later life he was diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy).

One manifestation of his disturbed state was his inability to remain faithful to one woman. Having, as he put it, “ruined two marriages and left everyone devastated”, he married, thirdly, in 1960, Audrey Zweierzchowska. That marriage, too, nearly came unstuck in the late 1980s when he began an affair with the concert pianist Annette Servadei. After a long period of blowing hot and cold, during which Audrey initiated divorce proceedings , he managed to patch up his marriage before Audrey succumbed to cancer in 2003.

Tony Hickson’s closest relationships were with his dogs, and in later life, after moving to Kent, he became a familiar figure in the streets of Canterbury, riding a mobility scooter with his Great Dane, Daisy, running alongside.

With his second wife, Jean, Hickson had two daughters; with his third wife, Audrey, he had a son and a stepdaughter.

Tony Hickson, born February 16 1927, died July 21 2014


Marcus Butt Illustration by Marcus Butt

The introduction of a food crime unit, recommended by Professor Chris Elliott in his report, is to be welcomed (Food scandals: protection money, Editorial, 5 September), as is the government’s new found commitment to fighting food crime. Hopefully the government’s aim to shrink the state and encourage self-regulation will not cause the new FCU to flounder. Our recent research demonstrates that food crime in the meat sector is serious and organised, but the supply-chain dynamics mean that the organisers are those who have legitimate access to the markets in order to place adulterated products. These offenders do not conform to our usual stereotypes of organised criminals, as many have a legitimate role in the supply chain/marketplace.

It is not until we have a much more sophisticated understanding of the dynamics of food adulteration and contamination and market/supply chain dynamics that it will be possible to ensure food safety. This can only be enhanced by an FCU that has both investigative teeth and powers of prosecution, otherwise it will go the same way as many specific crime-focused agencies have in the past; as a an extension to the “empire” of whatever the national agency is that is responsible for tackling organised crime.
Jon Spencer Senior lecturer in criminal justice, Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice, School of Law, University of Manchester, Professor Roy Goodacre Professor of biological chemistry, School of Chemistry and Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, University of Manchester, Dr David Ellis Senior experimental officer, School of Chemistry and Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, University of Manchester

• The battle to offer lower prices to shoppers is incentivising sharp practices in the food industry, and the key recommendation of an independent inquiry is for a new food crime unit “to fight criminals cashing in on supermarkets’ determination to minimise the prices they pay to suppliers” (Growing threat of new food scandal, 5 September). No mention of the disastrous race to the bottom in the food and farming sector caused by the consumerist fantasy of ever-reducing food prices. It almost makes you nostalgic for New Labour. Tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime.
Chris Smaje
Frome, Somerset

• The horsemeat scandal is finally moving towards some kind of finishing line with the publication of the Elliott report. There are signs that the government will take up its main recommendations, which is welcome. There is also hope that adequately resourced initiatives might go some way to restoring some public confidence in our food supply. But strengthening the systems against food adulteration fails to address an underlying problem – even perhaps an indirect cause – of the scandal: the progressive alienation of shoppers from food producers. Our food shopping is increasingly devoid of human contact. We don’t encounter the people who produce the food we eat. We rely on brands and labels. The supply chain is opaque. To engage shoppers we really need to promote local food bought from markets, farm shops and independent outlets, which come mostly from short and simple supply chains. The human connection between shoppers, shopkeepers and producers builds trust in the product, while feedback and human relationships support quality, as well as a better understanding of where and how food is produced.

Professor Elliott rightly recognises the “enormous importance” of shorter supply chains and the sourcing of locally produced foods. There is, therefore, no better time for all political parties to promote the diversification of food retail and shorten and simplify food supply to deliver the deeper changes that are needed.
Graeme Willis
Senior rural policy campaigner, Campaign to Protect Rural England

• The government’s plans for a food crime unit and new laboratories to combat future food scares is merely papering over the cracks of a broken system. The reforms seek only to catch abuse in our supply chains once the damage has been done and there are still no controls in place to ensure supply chain managers are professional, licensed and competent.

When we surveyed supply chain professionals earlier this year, 51% said the horsemeat scandal has not led to supply chain risk being taken more seriously and only 21% of supply chain professionals could guarantee there was no malpractice in their supply chains. We must empower supply chain managers within their own organisations if we are to make real progress.

We already ask our members to self-regulate as we call for a licence for procurement and supply management professionals. Without it, we are going to see a re-run of supply chain mismanagement with devastating consequences.
David Noble
Group CEO, Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply

Appeal to save Wedgwood Collection ‘The loss of this important research collection would therefore have a devastating impact not just on the artistic heritage of Britain, but also on period research in the humanities internationally.’ Photograph: Rui Vieira/PA

The council of the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology, Europe’s leading international society for the archaeological study of the post-medieval period, is writing to voice its strong support for the Art Fund’s Save the Wedgwood Collection fundraising appeal, as recently highlighted in your newspaper (Report, 2 September). While there is likely to be broad appreciation for the collection’s artistic importance, its international importance to post-medieval archaeology may be less well known. Among post-medieval archaeology’s core areas of interest are the study of such topics as artefacts of the post-1500 modern world, globalisation and the spread of capitalism, and the industrial revolution. The Wedgwood collection is a priceless research resource for all of these issues. Wherever post-medieval archaeologists work on sites dating to the later 18th and 19th centuries – whether in Great Britain, Ireland, and Europe, or further afield in North America, South America, Africa, Australasia, or even the desert oases of the Persian Gulf – one of the most common and important artefact types we recover are the British ceramic types pioneered, produced, and inspired by Josiah Wedgwood and his successors.

The loss of this important research collection would therefore have a devastating impact not just on the artistic heritage of Britain, but also on period research in the humanities internationally. In keeping with our goal of supporting relevant research, the SPMA has made a modest donation to the campaign in the welcome knowledge that the first £500,000 of donations will be matched. Individual council members have also made donations, and we hope that your readers will likewise lend their support to this important cause.
Dr David Caldwell President,
Nick Brannon Vice-president
Dr Alasdair Brooks Independent Researcher, Dubai
Stuart Campbell National Museums Scotland
Dr Vicky Crewe University of Cardiff
Emma Dwyer University of Leicester
Dr Kate Giles University of York
Prof Audrey Horning FSA Queen’s University, Belfast
Nigel Jeffries Museum of London Archaeology
Brian Kerr FSA, FSA Scot English Heritage
Dr Chris King University of Nottingham
Dr Laura McAtackney University College, Dublin
Kerry Massheder-Rigby University of Liverpool
Dr Sarah May Heritage for Transformation
Dr Natascha Mehler University of Vienna
Dr Hilary Orange University College London
Jacqui Pearce FSA Museum of London Archaeology
Dr Beverly Straube Jamestown Rediscovery, Virginia
Dr Hugh Willmott FSA University of Sheffield
SPMA council members

A Proms concert in progress at the Royal Albert Hall A Proms concert in progress at the Royal Albert Hall. Photograph: BBC

A spokeswoman for the mighty BBC tells Charlotte Higgins (Composers condemn ‘patronising’ BBC, 3 September) that the BBC Proms’ producers “have to bear in mind the audience” when choosing which Prom concerts to televise; and that “newer works are often less familiar”. Is someone paid good wages to write that sort of guff?

Serious questions about the programming of uncompromising “contemporary” music (often referred to by orchestral musicians as “squeaky gate music”) require more thoughtful evasion than this spokeswoman is capable of. Who decided, for example, that John Wilson’s Proms performance of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate should warrant only two short clips in Katie Derham’s television show? Not “familiar” enough for broadcast? And did nobody notice that living composer Roxanna Panufnik had created a most astonishingly topical, and accessible, composition that absorbed Christian, Jewish and Islamic musical traditions, to tell the story of Abraham and Isaac? Her Three Paths to Peace would have made an even more powerful comment if it had been broadcast after the evening news from Gaza. But it wasn’t.
Tony Staveacre
Blagdon, Somerset

• What a pathetic response by “a BBC spokeswoman” to criticism about the lack of contemporary music televised from the Proms. It can be dangerous to presume everything done in the past was better but one thing I know is that when I worked at the BBC we believed a vital part of our role was to encourage the audience to view, experience and appreciate works they might never otherwise have come across, in all art forms. If we had gone by the BBC’s current philosophy, then some of the most memorable arts programmes, now regarded as classics, would never have been made.
Diana Lashmore
Former executive producer, Music and Arts, BBC TV, London

• The problem is that it’s virtually impossible to write interesting new music for an ensemble combining conventional instrumentation that has scarcely changed in 250 years, and whose players have rigidly defined roles and playing styles – particularly since it already has a rich repertoire of undisputed masterpieces, and players who are so remarkably adept at performing it. It is not enough to write music that is merely “approachable” or “accessible”: composers need to write with a passion to express and communicate their ideas, and that means working with musicians who share that passion and can contribute creatively to its expression. The standard European symphony orchestra – whatever its undoubted glories – is not the ideal vehicle for this!

Britain’s demographic is changing. This means not only a wider and more diverse audience, but an ever-expanding range of other musical styles, instruments and above all musicians to draw on – thus opening up opportunities hitherto unimaginable for contemporary composers. Music which is exciting, original and properly expresses the spirit of Britain today may even also tickle the ears of broadcasters – and TV Proms transmissions are not the only outlet.
Tony Haynes
Grand Union Orchestra, London

Steve Rose (Strike force, G2, 5 September) apparently hasn’t noticed the difference between an Ealing comedy and the much sharper Boulting brothers comedies like I’m All Right Jack, which rather damages his credibility writing about British films. As for American films, it was good of Ken Loach to make the only film about union struggles in the US, as though the seminal Salt of the Earth and later films such as Matewan and Harlan County USA had never been made. Given the preference for continental Europe in Guardian film criticism, I’m rather surprised Rose hasn’t heard of Bo Widerberg’s Joe Hill – after all, it’s Swedish, even though its hero became an American union leader. And it’s rather sad that the article continues the cold-shouldering of The Happy Lands, last year’s British film about Scottish miners in the general strike.
John Wilson

1-On-1 Yoga Class at Shreyas Retreat,  Bangalore, Karnataka, India, Asia ‘If the original meaning of feisty refers to excessive flatulence, then it’s not an inappropriate term to describe people. Just attend a yoga class to discover why,’ writes Sue Johnson. Photograph: Robert Harding Picture Library/Alamy

After all the commemorations of the centenary of the first world war, I am astonished that the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the second world war on 3 September has merited not a mention in the national media. My father’s generation included many who inclined to pacifism but volunteered for a just war, to defeat fascism. He survived but many of his comrades didn’t, nor did millions of noncombatants in many countries. We should honour them.
Dr Jane Darke

• While not belittling Warrior’s record in the first world war (Medal for war horse, 3 September), it should be pointed out that as he was an officer’s horse he was brought back home and lived to a ripe old age in comfortable conditions. Hundreds of other horses that served equally bravely were sold on, in France and other theatres of war, to suffer uncertain fates. One of the results of this was the foundation of The Brooke, the charity which today supports working equines in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.
Alison Harris
Harrogate, North Yorkshire

• I use my whisky tin to keep knitting needles tidy. Please take note Brooks Newmark (Letters, 5 September).
Susan Tibbits
Bromsgrove, Worcestershire

• If the original meaning of feisty refers to excessive flatulence, then it’s not an inappropriate term to describe people (Letters, 5 September). Just attend a yoga class to discover why.
Sue Johnson

• Thanks Kathy Lette for a reminder of the genius of Spike Milligan (Comment, 4 September) and the new memorial. There is already a permanent memorial to Spike: his grave at St Thomas’s Church in Winchelsea, East Sussex, with the legendary “I told you I was ill” inscription. A lovely, peaceful sight in perfect country church grounds.
Ted Heath

• Thank you, Guardian, for a front-page photo two days in a row to make us smile over our morning coffee (Ebola nurse out of hospital, 3 September, and Goon but not forgotten, 4 September).
Sue and Robin Hoar
Teddington, Middlesex

Sandy Wilson, right, outside the theatre showing The Boy Friend, with the show’s producer Vida Hope. Photograph: Grey Villet/LIFE/Getty

Watching The Boy Friend by Sandy Wilson countless times as a young man never failed to fill me with delight and a longing for an age I had never known; it influenced a lot of my work with the band the Temperance Seven.

Wilson made life a little richer in those dark early 50s. Sitting in the gods, in my duffel coat and open-toed, existentialist sandals, a struggling art student, all I knew was that the music filled me with a happiness that had me humming on the bus all the way home to my miserable bedsit in Earl’s Court; the bright, witty, gently jazzy music ran through my head as I painted into the night. A happy meeting with a few fellow student musicians who shared my nostalgia resulted in the Temperance Seven. I like to think Wilson would have enjoyed our music as much as I delighted in his.


Bullies enjoy what they do – it gives them a sense of power and invulnerability if they are not caught and punished.

The worst thing you can tell a victim of bullying is “Ignore them and they’ll go away”. They won’t. They will just see how much further they have to go to get a reaction. Any attempt to stop their fun by anyone not in a position of unassailable power over them will be aggressively rejected.

Read more: The truth about bullying

As P G Wodehouse noted, “bullies are very rarely cowards”. And they don’t call it bullying. It is only “making fun of”, “teasing”, “banter” or (if you are a cricketer) “sledging”. It is, in fact child abuse, even when conducted by children, so let’s call it that.

Each school has a duty of care towards its pupils (and staff). Not challenging abuse – and in the case in your article “Cruel days” (4 September) it is child abuse accepted by adults who are in loco parentis – is a clear breach of this duty of care. Giving a child the impossible problem of gaining acceptance after a year of abuse, without help, guidance or support, or any intention of punishing the abusers, is yet more abuse

What to do? Tell the victim that “There is life after school – it does not last forever.” Ask whether your child looks good in their clothes and haircut; children judge each other a lot by appearances. Look at physical fitness. Good posture and muscles will make your child a lot less like a victim. If there is a sports centre or gym where they can get fit, take them.

Keep a diary of every humiliation and every failure by staff to take appropriate action. Don’t let the school think it can get away with ignoring the problem. Ask for its policy on dealing with bullies – but mention that it is child abuse. Contact the governors, and regularly send them copies of the diary, asking for their advice on what to do.

And remember that abusers are experts at not getting caught. But if they are not dealt with, some of today’s “bullies” will be tomorrow’s Jimmy Saviles and Cyril Smiths.

Peter Slessenger, Reading

The most depressing thing about the article “Cruel days” is that the parent trying to resolve a bullying issue actually made matters worse, because of the apathy (cowardice) and disregard of the people in senior positions who should have dealt with the situation, but actually turned things against the bullied. A bit like blaming a rape victim for being sexually provocative.

Regrettably, bullying continues past schooldays into work, where it is rife in so many different areas. Workplace bullying is rarely, if ever, physical, but is usually the result of a misuse of power, invariably to cover up deficiencies, and is emotional, verbal, electronic and goodness knows what else, all officially defined as “harassment”.

I work in construction where bullying has become almost endemic in recent years. I always stand up to bullies but have usually found the same attitude that distressed me reading this article – not only do people turn a blind eye, they often actively encourage such disgraceful behaviour.

This comes from both employers (not wishing to “make a fuss”) and clients/principal contractors, who are usually part of the problem. Luckily, my current employers are  very good in this regard.

A reduction in trade unions and professional bodies which actually care about these issues has contributed to the problem.

We need to see more trade bodies and professional institutions starting to tackle this issue properly, with proper debate, and if not punishment, then at least the naming and shaming of the protagonists, and, most importantly, offering support to victims.

This is an issue that has a detrimental effect on the wellbeing of a huge number of people, and it is about time we dragged ourselves into the 21st century and dealt with it.

Phil McLaughlin, London Colney, Hertfordshire

Can the Scots afford their own currency?

The way that the Union was set up, the Westminster Parliament extended its authority across Scotland, and the Scottish Parliament adjourned itself. The national debt therefore is Westminster’s problem. Has the SNP administration at Holyrood the mandate to lumber an independent Scotland with the proposed 10 per cent of the debt to keep sterling?

In order to borrow money to pay public-sector workers, from the start an independent Scotland would need a Scots pound. If an independent Scotland kept the British pound, there could be no public-sector borrowing, only a balanced budget. Nearly all modern states are run by borrowing to pay for public services. Scotland would need to do this, with a welfare state.

Any new Scots pound floated on the international currency markets will devalue to about 77p, if Ireland’s experience in  1979 is anything to go by, thereby cutting the spending power of all public-sector wages, pensions and benefits.

Everything in the shops would increase in price by 40 per cent in one jump if an independent Scotland had its own currency. Unfortunately, an independent Scotland would need one to function. But do the Scots want a pay cut?

Nigel F Boddy, Darlington, Co Durham

The Yes/No debate for Scottish independence is gathering momentum, with the question of what currency Scotland will use in the forefront.

Lloyds Bank and other financial institutions threaten to move to London should the Scots vote Yes: a move that would benefit the Scots rather than harm them – they should be cheering them on their way.

Currency and monetary manipulation is a lever of control of the ruling elite. The last thing in the world an independent Scotland should consider is keeping either the British pound or the euro.

Both are under the control of central banks run for the benefit of the bankers and their owners.

As Mayer Amschel Rothschild said in 1790: “Let me issue and control a nation’s money and I care not who writes the laws.” A truly independent Scotland must control its own money to be worthy of the description “independent”; anything less is merely cosmetic change with no substance.

The choice is clear: rule by the ruling elite and the banks, or real independence through Scotland controlling its own money.

Clive Menzies, London N13

No second-class PM – on stamps

The problem with Colin Burke’s suggestion (letter, 5 September), that the Yes campaign in Scotland should just send out a blank postcard to voters with a Margaret Thatcher stamp on it, is that the Royal Mail does not issue its prime minister stamps until 14 October.

But it is of interest that the four post-war prime ministers to be depicted (Attlee, Churchill, Wilson and Thatcher) are all on first-class stamps. Presumably they thought it would be too controversial to make any of the prime ministers second-class.

David Lammin, Boxford, Suffolk

boris won’t take  no for an answer

So with the Thames Estuary airport as it was with the water cannon: Boris Johnson seems incapable of being told No. Well, incapable of understanding and accepting it, at least.

His self-belief is unquestionable – quite literally, it seems – as illustrated by his apparent refusal to take advice or instruction from those he is supposed to work alongside, those who “advise” him or those whom he is supposed to represent.

Now that he has become bored with the city he was given to play with, it only remains to be seen whether the public will be foolish enough to risk electing him to go lord it in the Commons.

Julian Self, Milton Keynes

United Nations is our only hope

Your front page (4 September) issued a challenge to President Obama as “the leader of the free world” – but that is the kind of thinking that perpetuates the problem.

So long as we continue to look to the “great powers” to sort out all the problems in the world, we will only store up more trouble. We cannot determine what is best for others. If we seriously believe that democracy is the best way to resolve political issues, we need to start acting as if we believed it. It is not up to America, Russia or anyone else to decide how the world should be. We need a forum where all parties, all countries, can freely debate and decide on the best course of action.

That is the true function of the UN, a key institution which has been shamefully sidelined and ignored in recent years. How can we expect anyone else to take notice of international law if we blatantly ignore it?

Simon Prentis, Cheltenham

too many cook’s pictures… The Independent has joined the trend (worst offender being the Radio Times) of littering the pages with pictures of Mary Berry.

I can’t help feeling that this unnatural adulation is a case of over-egging the pudding.

Nick Pritchard, Southampton


The poor reputation of care homes may well be undeserved, though more could be done

Sir, I have visited many care homes over the years and I have almost always been impressed by the patience, tolerance and compassion of the staff caring for residents, some of whom can be very difficult at times and others, occasionally, frankly aggressive (“Old people turn to ‘lonely’ care homes only as final resort”, Sept 3).

Any case of abuse is, of course, inexcusable and 7,654 cases reported over a year is dreadful. That said, with 450,000 people in care homes at present, this means that 1.7 per cent of that population has reported abuse. Even if one adds an element for unreported abuse, it seems clear that the great majority are not abused, so the poor reputation of care homes may be undeserved.

The challenge is how to work out which homes will provide high-quality care for a relative who may now be completely unmanageable at home with severe dementia or double incontinence.

Some of us have been arguing for years that there should be an annual survey of care home residents — and/or their relatives — measuring their experience of care and their quality of life. I believe that this would generally produce positive figures, but certainly the published results should enable people to make a more informed choice.

Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen

Barnet, Herts

Sir, Your report (Sept 3) gives a bleak snapshot of just some of the issues facing our rapidly ageing society. Older people left languishing in hospital wards, fears of poor care in care homes and the risk of neglect or abuse — the Demos and Age UK reports make for grim reading. As the Demos report found, some providers are evolving and great care does exist. We are aware of the many concerns facing the older people of today and the future. However, the underlying theme with these reports seems to be that the government is not.

The government, care providers and the NHS need to work together to ensure that a crisis in social care is averted. This can only be achieved with representation at the highest level of government. In 2011, 137,000 people signed the petition for a Minister for Older People to be appointed — which was handed to No 10. The case for change is stronger than ever, and action is long overdue.

Jane Ashcroft

CEO, Anchor, and commissioner, Commission on Residential Care

Sir, With regard to the King’s Fund report (“Elderly must pay more for better care system”, Sept 4), I have spent a career trying — with varying degrees of success — to bridge the gap between health and social care. It is clear to me that both agencies are keen, indeed actively seek, to co-operate for the good of their patient/client. The stumbling block has always been the fractured funding system between monies raised locally and governed by locally elected council members, and that driven from central government.

Experience tells me that if we crack this funding question, the rest will be easy. For too long we have had to work in a system which is confusing not only to those receiving care but to the very people working within it.

Christina Sell

Managing director, Langton Care

Sir, The report by the Commission on Residential Care A vision for care fit for the 21st century describes the negative perceptions associated with the term residential care, and instead uses the term “housing with care” as it “encapsulates the entire spectrum of options from care homes to extra care villages and supported living apartments”.

This creates various problems. As things stand, the term “housing with care” (also known as extra care housing) is typically used to differentiate between a housing model, in which care is available around the clock, and a residential care model. As the report makes clear, a housing model offers distinct benefits, as well as being funded and regulated differently.

Until such time as the report’s recommendations become reality, and care homes become more like genuine housing with care, using the term “housing with care” when referring to residential care creates considerable confusion. It also risks having the opposite effect from that intended, transferring the negative perceptions of residential care onto housing with care.

Sue Garwood

(Extra care specialist)

Royston, Herts

Views of Scotland from outside range as widely as those within the country

Sir, Over the past year I have found myself moving towards being a Yes supporter. I am English, so this is academic, but the more I examine where England is as a nation, the more I am appalled at the failure of socio-economic neo-liberalism that creates a tiny powerful elite while marginalising everybody else.

From housing to welfare to justice, to education to economic fairness we in England are morally skewered. That Scotland has a chance to shake off the legacy of elitism and exclusion is fantastic. In doing so I hope Scotland provides the radical mind shift that we in England so desperately need to embrace fairer ways of doing things.

The earthquake that would come from Scottish independence would force us to rightly look at ourselves and what we truly stand for.

Gerard Brown

London W2

Sir, Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown heading the No campaign? Where are the English politicians telling Scotland why we want them, why we need them and why they should stay with us?

Leslie Howard

St Albans

Sir, Listening to the Yes campaign one might think that Scots are an oppressed people living in poor conditions. But our island is a haven of freedom and relative prosperity which people risk their lives to join. What sort of paradise do the Scots think they can create by this messy, expensive and divisive divorce?

Professor Robert Elkeles

Northwood, Middx

Sir, It defies logic that Scotland might retain the pound. It would remain hugely dependent on the remaining UK government’s economic policy but without any representation. It is better off now.

Michael Old

Poole, Dorset

Sir, With this recent defection of a Conservative MP to Ukip, the upcoming Scottish referendum and a possible future referendum on EU membership, it is not conceivable that in the near future we could be out of the European Union while Scotland is in.

Dan Green

Ewell, Surrey

Sir, I have, like most in England, only had a passing interest in the Scottish referendum but I would be keen to know what the chances are of keeping “English” Summer Time throughout the year if the Scots decide to depart, as I am certain it would improve the road safety of the inhabitants south of the border.

It would be left to the Highland dairy industry to plead directly with Alex Salmond for their historical light-saving advantage that we have afforded them in the past.

Stephen Williams

Saffron Walden

Sir, Clare Harbord (letter, Sept 4) claims that an extra runway at Heathrow would provide sufficient capacity until 2040, and that this would match Amsterdam and Paris.

What she fails to mention is that those airfields have surplus capacity in the form of more than three runways. A three-runway Heathrow operating close to capacity would result in even greater disruption when there were delays caused by fog or incidents that temporarily closed a runway. A modern international airport needs a spare runway that can be brought into operation at short notice. Without this, delays and cancellations are inevitable every time that anything disrupts the perfect flow of air traffic.

Captain Will Steynor (British Airways, retired)

South Brent, Devon

Sir, It is indeed true that e-cigarettes can help established smokers to stop smoking (report, Sept 5). However, they deliver pure nicotine and it is now understood that nicotine is a “gateway” drug that lowers the threshold in the body for taking other addictive substances, notably cannabis and cocaine. This effect is biological, not emotional.

It follows that because of the danger of non-smokers, especially young people, experimenting in the false belief that e-cigarettes are safe, great caution should be exercised in their regulation and sale.

Professor Sir Denis Pereira Gray

(Past chairman, Academy of Medical Royal Colleges), Exeter

Sir, If Scotland votes for separation and then applies to share the pound in a currency union, surely the rest of us in the remainder of the UK have the democratic right to have our say on whether we are willing to share sterling with the new state. In such post-referendum circumstances, we must be given the earliest opportunity to vote on this issue, which is of fundamental importance to us all. Indeed it is hard to see how any government of the remaining UK would have a mandate to negotiate on a question of such magnitude without a vote having taken place.

P Carden

Thetford, Norfolk

Sir, Hugo Rifkind (Times2, Sept 4) makes an important point about the absence of positive feeling for those campaigning against independence. Of course it seems much more exciting to be voting “Yes” to something. Isn’t it time for the “No” campaign to be emphasising the positives for keeping the union, rather than all the negatives?

Dr Roger Kennedy


Sir, The question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” is ambiguous. Scotland is already independent — with a legitimate government, its own law, education and sports teams, etc. A “Yes” vote could be deemed a vote for keeping the status quo of an independent country within the Union. But better ask Brussels — they handle Unions.

Alex Mackinnon

Dollar, Clackmannanshire

What should schools do, exactly, with the final few weeks of the summer term?

Sir, At my school in the 1960s the weeks before the end of term in July were put to good use (letters, Sept 2 & 4). Those going into the sixth form were prepared for the following term. Most useful of all was a programme for the school leavers that covered bank accounts and managing your money, cooking on a budget, public speaking, the importance of using your vote, time management and looking after your health. Perhaps this is now all covered in the curriculum, but it was invaluable at the time.

Lucinda Morrison

Emsworth, Hants

Sir, Perhaps cricket matches should be introduced in the first half of the autumn term rather than in the summer term (letter, Sept 3). The weather at this time of year is often still and warm, and this year looks to be no exception. I grew up on the North East coast, where my love of sport was severely tested by trying to catch a cricket ball in freezing temperatures in April and having my bones crushed on rock-hard rugby pitches in September.

John Williams

London SE9

Sir, Your leading article on Hong Kong’s political reform (Sept 2) is misleading. Since the handover of Hong Kong in 1997, the central government has upheld the principle of “one country, two systems” and strictly followed the Basic Law in handling Hong Kong-related matters. Hong Kong has therefore enjoyed a high degree of autonomy.

The colonial rule of Britain’s unelected governors gave Hong Kong no democracy. By contrast, the Chinese government initiated the process to elect a chief executive through universal suffrage, which was later inscribed in the Basic Law.

The decision by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee a few days ago marks an important milestone for Hong Kong’s democratic progress. For the first time in Hong Kong’s history, a chief executive can be elected through one person, one vote. It will not only advance Hong Kong’s democracy and political process but will fuel Hong Kong’s continued prosperity.

Miao Deyu

Chinese Embassy, London W1


A passenger jet aircraft comes into land at Heathrow Airport on March 13, 2007 Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

6:58AM BST 05 Sep 2014


Flying from Britain

SIR – While Alan Greenwood (Letters, September 3) has a point about the number of people residing further afield than the Thames Estuary, I would question his selection of Salisbury Plain as the site of a new airport. First, notwithstanding its continued use by the military, the plain is a noted conservation area.

Secondly, Salisbury Plain is not “in the middle of Britain”. That claim belongs to the village of Dunsop Bridge, Lancashire, in the middle of the Trough of Bowland, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

James Barry
Stokesley, North Yorkshire

Objective in Iraq

SIR – During Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, there were several questions regarding the situation with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), the jihadist group, and the country of Iraq.

But the most obvious question, “What is the Government’s objective in relation to Isil?” was not asked. Nor, moreover, has the Prime Minister or the Foreign Secretary ever disclosed the Government’s objective.

No strategy declared by the Government can be effective unless it is designed to achieve a known objective.

Nicholas Watkis

SIR – Why glorify this thug by calling him “Jihadi John”? He should be called a coward for not showing his face.

Peggy Rowell
Chippenham, Wiltshire

Police yourself

SIR – You report that police are getting members of the public to look for evidence themselves after they are burgled. Will we also have to issue our own crime numbers for insurance purposes?

If, as recommended, victims of crime investigate the matter themselves, are they required to apprehend the suspect, or would that be classed as vigilantism?

John Milhofer
Broadstone, Dorset

SIR – If there is a whiff of racism or homophobia, the police are quick to attend, usually mob-handed, explaining: “We have a duty to investigate all such incidents.” Presumably, this diligence does not apply to old-fashioned crimes such as theft, vandalism and criminal damage.

Dr Chris Topping
Pilling, Lancashire

Making a century

SIR – I thoroughly enjoyed reading the obituary (September 3) of the cricketer Norman Gordon.

However, there is a Test cricketer who played either side of the Second World War who is alive and well, aged 102. Eileen Ash is a delightful lady, whom I met at Lord’s in 2012 when my husband was president of Marylebone Cricket Club.

Eileen played golf until she was 99 and still practises yoga. Her energy, vitality and sense of humour make her unforgettable. Her recipe for longevity is red wine.

Sally Ann Hodson
Notton, West Yorkshire

Parrot paradox

SIR – Some years ago I was visited by a parrot, an African Grey called Henry. “Can you talk?”, I asked Henry (“Without question”, Letters, September 4). The bird cocked its head, gave the matter some thought, and replied loudly: “No.”

Tim Deane
Tisbury, Wiltshire

Boarding and care

SIR – A new generation of boarding school could transform “troubled children’s chances”, a think tank believes (report, September 1) – but it could be a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Disadvantaged children who go to independent schools do significantly better than others from the same background. There is no need to turn “top” state schools into state boarding schools. The capacity already exists in the independent sector – it only needs local authorities to realise the value for money.

According to some estimates, it costs around £100,000 a year to educate and look after children in care. The cost would be £40,000 in independent boarding schools, including extras such as holiday clubs.

It would help improve social mobility and provide structure, security and care, while giving the fullest education.

Taunton School has links with social services departments and we have two children with us, both doing well.

Duncan Sinclair
Headmaster, Taunton Preparatory School

A personal Bayeux

SIR – In my shop we stretch and mount tapestry pieces. After the first Gulf war, a young wife brought us the small pieces her husband had completed while sitting on his tank waiting to go into action (Letters, September 3). There was still sand in them.

It was quite a task to straighten them, but we returned the finished pieces with a suggestion that the date should be sewn in too. Anyone else involved with records like these should do the same.

Eve Wilkinson
Blandford Forum, Dorset

Eating for two

SIR – Geoffrey Shaw (Letters, September 4) asks what he, living alone, should do with recipes for four. I cook a recipe for four and eat it four days running. Or, as there is no one around to witness it, I sometimes scoff the whole lot in two days.

Isobel Barker
Torpoint, Cornwall

Ripe experience

SIR – How to tell when black tomatoes are ripe (Letters, September 4)? As an allotment holder I have an infallible guide. Anything that’s ripe will get stolen.

Roger Green
London SE25

Hi falutin ways in which to begin an email

SIR – The Rev John Campbell (Letters, September 4) wonders how to greet his email correspondents.

He may choose a salutation that suits the recipient. “Greetings, O silver one” would do for a fellow silver surfer; “Good morrow” for a Shakespeare fan; “Morning all” or “Greetings all” for a group message; “Dearest” for a beloved; and for Klingon buffs, nuqneH.

Rosie Harden-Vane
Holywell, Northumberland

SIR – “Hello”, “Hallo”, “Hullo”, or even “Salve”. All are preferable to the universal “Hi”, an unwanted and unnecessary Americanism, when there are so many alternatives.

Jill Forrest
Bishop’s Waltham, Hampshire

SIR – I dislike using “Hi” and have discovered that “Greetings” serves me well as an opener: it is not overly official, but is pleasantly friendly to all those with whom I correspond.

David Horchover
Eastcote, Middlesex

SIR – Using the salutation “Hi” in emails is juvenile and irritating. Emoticons are worse.

Mr Campbell would do better by just using the recipient’s name. Brevity in emails is admirable.

Tony Munday
Haxton, Wiltshire

SIR – What ho!

Henry Dodds
Sevenoaks, Kent

Allium hollandicum, ‘Purple Sensation’, in the ‘Scent of a Roman’ garden at Chelsea, 2007  Photo: Alamy

6:59AM BST 05 Sep 2014


SIR – Three cheers for Harry Mount’s defence of Latin terminology against those botanists who attack the language as being an “irrelevant anachronism” (Features, September 3).

It is, indeed, the ultimate lingua franca, descending from the Renaissance, when scholars and literary figures addressed each other in elegant Latin through letters and poems, and used it in international symposia, where it would be readily comprehensible.

Its lexical variety can be illustrated by the following challenge: how many synonyms can you think of for the English word famous? Latin has at least 15 of them.

Christopher Pelly
Parkstone, Dorset

SIR – On holiday in Cuba, a friend and I visited the National Botanical Gardens in Havana. We spoke no Spanish, our guide and translator knew nothing about plants and gardening, and the young lady at the gardens spoke no English. However, as soon as she started pointing out the plants’ Latin names, we were off on a wonderful visit.

Chris Gordon
Benington, Lincolnshire

EU Fiscal treaty referendum…No and Yes counting slips lie on top of hundreds of ballot boxes in the warehouse of the Dublin County Returning Officer, before they are distributed to polling stations across Dublin county ahead of the nationwide vote of the Fiscal Stability Referendum tomorrow. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday May, 30, 2012. Photo credit should read: Julien Behal/PA Wire Photo: PA

7:00AM BST 05 Sep 2014


SIR – Allan Steward writes of the lack of “No” field posters on the road between the border and Edinburgh (Letters, September 4). He was too late. Blink and they’re gone.

Field posters here in Midlothian are lucky to last one night before disappearing. This does not look like casual vandalism; it feels like an orchestrated campaign.

Never have I met so many who will not put up posters for fear of vandalism. Never have so few been ready to put stickers in cars or windows of their houses. The police do what they can – issue crime numbers.

Scotland is already a different country.

Marnie Crawford

SIR – The Scottish referendum may end up in a narrow win for the Nationalists, but there will still be a United Kingdom general election eight months later, when the implications will have had time to sink in.

If a majority of the candidates elected are from pro-Union parties, and declare so in their manifestos, will such an important issue be reopened?

Michael Staples
Seaford, East Sussex

SIR – A Yes vote is for ever, not just for Christmas.

Ivan Childs
Martock, Somerset

SIR – If Scotland votes to leave the Union, it would be proper for the general election in 2015 to take place with no Scottish representation. This would, I guess, require legislation, but it would be preferable to postponing the election for a year.

Rev John D Bland
Littleover, Derbyshire

SIR – Whether Scotland votes for independence or not, in the eight months until the general election, the rest of the UK, having been denied a vote on Scottish independence which will have significant effects for them, should not be rushed into negotiating in the divisive aftermath.

It seems unreasonable for the Coalition Government to embark on serious discussions when there will be a new government in Westminster in a matter of months.

The period between September and May should be one of quiet planning and reflection on both sides, leaving a new government to negotiate and make the crucial decisions resulting from the outcome of the vote.

David Clarke
Hook, Hampshire

SIR – I am concerned about the prophecy made by those who wrote the Act of Union. They wrote that such a Union would stand for “all time coming, the sure and perpetual foundation of a complete and entire Union of the two kingdoms of Scotland and England.” Are we really about to reach the end of time?

Rev Dominic Stockford
Teddington, Middlesex

‘If ever there was a reason not to take part in a reality TV show, here is a sound one’ Photo: BBC

10:32PM BST 05 Sep 2014


SIR – After the media storm over the exit of Iain Watters from The Great British Bake-Off last week and the apparent scapegoating by some people of another contestant, Diana Beard, I write to put the medical record straight. As Diana’s GP I am fully aware of the medical reasons for her inability to continue in the series. She has asked me to make these reasons clear, because of the inferences drawn by some commentators, that her withdrawal from the programme was linked to the exit of Iain.

After the filming of the episode at the end of which Iain left, Diana returned the next weekend ready to film Episode 5, screened this week. The evening before filming, all the contestants went to a restaurant for a meal together. At the end of the meal Diana stood up, lost consciousness and fell heavily, banging her head on the stone floor.

She was taken to the A&E department of the local hospital where she remained that night as a result of her injury. She was diagnosed with concussion and could not take part in the Bake-Off that weekend, so returned home. She was given a “bye” into Episode 6, to be screened this coming week.

Filming for Episode 6 was a week later, by which time Diana had not recovered from her concussion. I advised the programme producers that she needed a longer time to recover before starting to bake again. They were not prepared to allow Diana to miss two episodes, and she therefore had to leave the programme.

Ever since this head injury, Diana has been unable to smell or taste anything. She had a number of investigations, including a CT scan and a MRI scan of her head. These showed that the nerve from the nose, the olfactory nerve, which transmits taste and smell to the brain, had been completely severed as a result of the impact.

Diana sought the advice of a neurosurgeon who said that there is no treatment to repair this. If she is very lucky she may regain these senses but this would take many months, if it happens at all.

In my view, Diana has paid a heavy price for taking part in the GBBO. If ever there was a reason not to take part in a reality TV show, here is a sound one.

Dr Kieran Redman
Whitchurch, Shropshire

Irish Times:

Sir, – What a sad picture Dr Ali Selim (“Call for State schools to accommodate Islamic beliefs”, September 3rd) paints of school life for Muslim teenagers, particularly girls. They cannot take part in the school raffle, in case winning a box of Milk Tray at the school concert should turn them into gamblers. However, that’s only a minor detail compared to the more serious issues raised. Muslim girls should not remove their scarves during PE. How could they play properly with this garment getting in their way? Only females should be present in the PE hall. Girls should not be “visible to men” while they play.

But the saddest picture of all is the subject of music. Even those of us who cannot sing (quite a few of us) or play a musical instrument (even more of us) get endless enjoyment from listening to music. Is this simple, but vital pleasure, to be denied to Muslim children?

To sum up, these are the rules: girls, cover yourselves from head to foot; don’t mix with boys; don’t play too boisterously; don’t swim in a communal pool; don’t dance; don’t sing; don’t listen to music; don’t enjoy yourselves; don’t be happy; and don’t be young.

Muslims living in liberal western countries should modernise, or not only will they alienate their neighbours, but also their children. – Your, etc,



New Ross, Co Wexford.

Sir, – With regard to the recent call for changes to existing state schools to accommodate Islamic belief or new schools set up specifically to facilitate such beliefs, I would like to refer your readers and contributors to the 2011 census. According to it, Islam comes sixth in terms of religious classification numbers (after Catholic, No Religion, Church of Ireland, Not Stated, and Other Stated Religions) and is only marginally ahead of “Orthodox (Greek, Coptic, Russian)” and “Other Christian” .

Even if we draw the “inclusion” cut-off line at just below Muslim (excluding Buddhist, Hindu, Jehovah’s Witness, etc), this leaves six religious and two non-religious groupings which need to have special sectarian accommodations made for them in the education system. And why stop there? What about the health system, the justice system, broadcasting, transport, etc?

With resources scarce enough in education, do we really need to modify our schools as requested? Most Irish villages and towns struggle to keep one school running, without the need for six or eight divided along religious lines, even before we consider the school transport complexities that would bring.

Surely the solution for a multidenominational society are multidenominational schools, hospitals, buses, police, courts, public spaces, and so on. – Yours, etc,



Bandon, Co Cork.

Sir, – In 2012 Dr Selim’s Islamic Cultural Centre hosted a lecture branding all Irish Ahmadi Muslims apostates. Perhaps we should not leap to the assumption that the Irish Muslim community is monolithic, or that Dr Selim’s unelected organisation should be its sole voice. – Yours, etc,


Iona Road,


Dublin 9.

Sir, – On interacting with professionals (in this case, teachers), Dr Ali Selim states that, “Muslims do not believe in eye contact between members of the opposite sex”. This was “significant for teachers when dealing with Muslim parents”.

There we have it. The mask has slipped. Dr Selim should be asked whether his views are capable of being integrated within a western democracy. – Yours, etc,


Highland Avenue,


Dublin 18.

Sir, – The revelation in The Irish Times that 9,000 cases of abuse, neglect or welfare concerns over children at risk are waiting for a social worker is deeply concerning (“Thousands of children at risk await social workers”, September 5th). This is fundamentally a political issue, which must be high on the Cabinet agenda as it prepares Budget 2015, because it highlights an extremely serious and potentially catastrophic funding shortfall within Tusla, the Child and Family Agency.

It is, or ought to be, a cause of national scandal – especially given our history in the matter – that thousands of children at risk of abuse, neglect or welfare concerns are having to wait to be allocated a social worker. Worryingly, we understand more than a third (3,250) are “high priority” cases that were awaiting a response during the summer.

Any delays can result in deepening hurt and trauma on the child and situations reaching crisis point. The failure to intervene early places these children and families at ever-deepening risk. Children in these situations need immediate support, and Tusla must be appropriately equipped to provide that essential care.

Everyone involved in the field knows the budget provided to set up Tusla was too small to cover its projected costs, by at least €60 million. Essentially, it was given only around 90 per cent of what it needed when it was established earlier this year. There is no evidence of waste, mismanagement or gratuitous overspending within Tusla – quite the opposite.

We all know that Tusla is working hard to streamline systems and practices, but a built-in deficit like this is a recipe for catastrophe and failure. Tusla must be given adequate funding in Budget 2015 to ensure it can cover its mandate adequately, but also to ensure the system can cope with the necessary extra workload that will arise when mandatory reporting is introduced, hopefully in 2015, and also for the new workload resulting from the need for an adequate inspection regime in the childcare area. – Yours, etc,


Chief Executive,


Christchurch Square,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – The problem of homelessness is now out of control. A growing number of people are sleeping rough on the streets of Dublin, as there are not enough beds available.

To eliminate rough sleeping is not rocket science – it involves renting or buying a few buildings, doing some internal renovations, putting in beds and employing some staff.

Why can the Government not address that relatively simple issue, especially now that winter is approaching and the economy recovering?

Why are drug-free homeless people forced to share a room full of drug users, or forfeit their social welfare payments?

Why is the whole experience of accessing emergency homeless services such a frustrating, degrading and humiliating experience, especially for people who are first time homeless?

There is no sense of urgency at the political level to provide a half-decent homeless service which respects the dignity of homeless people and which actually works.

Homelessness and rough sleeping are likely to increase substantially over the next 18 months.

Some 31,500 buy-to-let residential properties are in mortgage arrears of more than 90 days, and 35,000 principal home properties are in mortgage arrears of more than two years.

The Central Bank has referred to a “potential mortgage arrears time-bomb”. Each house that is repossessed by a financial institution is a person or family potentially facing homelessness.

There is a “potential homeless time-bomb” ticking away. It may explode before the next general election. – Yours, etc,


Jesuit Centre

for Faith and Justice,

Upper Sherrard Street,

Dublin 1.

Sir, – The Department of Education’s consultation paper on foreign languages is an achievement in post factum obfuscation of which the late Sir Humphrey Appleby would be most proud (“Schools need to vary language teaching amid ‘predominance of French’, report suggests”, August 29th).

If post-primary students have less choice in modern language learning than was the case a number of years ago, this is a direct consequence of increases to the pupil-teacher ratio in schools and other cuts to teaching staff implemented by successive governments with the connivance – willing or otherwise – of senior officials who stand behind this document.

Maintaining compulsory and other high-demand subjects has required the cutting of less popular ones in languages, science and business. In a similar manner, schools have not been able to add subjects owing to the almost impossible pressures on their timetable.

In this fog of wilful deceit, the gunboat Marlborough Street has turned its turret on French. In doing so, it perpetuates the neophile’s obsession with potential rather than reality.

In this case, the reality is that France is our sixth most important export partner, with Belgium and Switzerland, home to significant French-speaking populations, actually further up the list. These nations are natural markets for indigenous Irish produce and they account for a significant share of tourism here. More to the point, the generally respected EF English Proficiency Index shows that the proportion of people in France who speak English is significantly lower than in Germany or Spain, whose languages are also widely taught in our schools.

If an intelligent conversation regarding the status of languages is to be had, there first needs to be a recognition from Government that its short-sighted decisions have brought us to this point and secondly an acknowledgement that we can ill do with a downgrading of French given the scale of our relationship with French-speaking countries and the manifest requirement to produce graduates capable of speaking their language. – Yours, etc,


Turvey Walk,


Co Dublin.

Sir, – Imagining that the study of French limits one to communicating only with citizens of metropolitan France and engaging only with their culture is short sighted. I studied French in secondary school up to Leaving Certificate, just like thousands of my peers. While I later completed my theology degree in France and through French for ordination as a Catholic priest, I now live in Italy and use French almost daily, socially and for work, with Québécois, Lithuanians, Poles, Czechs, Senegalese, Togolese, Berkinabè, Iraqis and Lebanese, among others. Such communication is not in any way unusual for somebody living outside an Anglophone country. The foundation for it was laid, in my case, during six years of French classes in my secondary school, Christian Brothers College, Cork.

Knowing French also makes understanding, and then learning, the other Romance languages relatively straightforward. – Yours, etc,


Collegio San Clemente,

Via Labicana,

Sir, – Given the persistent push via media outlets and political rhetoric that we should remember great strides and advances such as the IRA ceasefire of 1994, I trust we will continue to apply equal clarity and insistence when we reach other milestone dates subsequent to that time.

Dates such as the day, not even a year and a half later, when the IRA broke this ceasefire with the London Docklands bombing, then later the Manchester bombing and the murder of Garda Jerry McCabe during an armed robbery.

The people in question, still unrepentant to this day for their actions, had not “gone away, you know”. – Yours, etc,


Celbridge Road,


Co Kildare.

Sir, – Rob Sadlier (September 4th) writes that “the introduction of gender quotas could result in better candidates losing out to weaker candidates”.

The decisions that contributed to the bankrupting of the country were made by a Dáil which was nearly 90 per cent male.

It does not look, therefore, as if the better qualified candidates were always chosen in the past.

Marginalising the talents of the half of the population that are women does not seem like a wise policy in what is supposed to be a representative democracy.

On the contrary, the introduction of gender quotas might go some way to bring in better qualified candidates from the female half of the population. – Yours, etc,


Shielmartin Drive,


Dublin 13.

Sir, – When all the undergrowth of debate and discussion on meritocracy, practicality, fairness and discrimination is burned away and the true shape of our political landscape is exposed, what we see is a distorted democracy, with half of our population represented by just 15 per cent women in our national parliament.

Gender quotas, while not ideal, represent the lesser evil. We should not have to rely on an evolutionary pace of change to achieve a truly representative democracy. – Yours, etc,


Bushy Park Road,


Sir, – I am writing to you to express my deep frustration with visiting Ireland. I am a regular visitor and a strong supporter and proponent of Ireland – but during the past several visits, I have faced hour-long waits at Dublin Airport because of a decision to keep most of the border inspection booths closed.

It is incomprehensible to me that a country with a need for tourists and investors would be so narrow minded as to intentionally allow these much-needed visitors (and their substantial spending and investment) to stand for an hour or more at Dublin Airport simply because of a decision not to staff the inspection stations.

The first impression that international visitors receive upon touching down at Dublin is that they are essentially not wanted – what else could explain having only three gardaí on duty to handle a half a dozen international flights all scheduled to arrive at the same time?

Ireland is a wonderful country to visit and in which to invest, but first impressions are important – and a visitor’s first impression upon arriving at Dublin Airport is that they really are not welcome. – Yours, etc,


21st Avenue,

Isle of Palms,

South Carolina.

A chara, – The headline on your editorial thoroughly and rightly condemning the killing of Steven Sotloff reads “A barbarous execution” (September 4th). Barbarous, yes; but an execution, no. Mr Sotloff was kidnapped by terrorists, held captive against his will for over a year in horrible conditions, and then forced to read an ideological spiel justifying the actions of his tormentors before being hideously murdered by them on camera. His murderers refused to even allow him dignity in death and posted the video of his brutal murder online.

Let us give not even the slightest hint of cover to these truly barbarous people by using the legal-sounding term “execution” to describe their evil actions. – Is mise,


Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny.

Sir, – Frank McNally refers to the cries of the newspaper boys he heard when he first came to Dublin (“The lost art of paper pushing”, An Irishman’s Diary, September 4th).

The cries I remember from my youth, half a generation earlier, sounded something like “Heggle-o-May-ill, late foinal Mayl-o-Heggle”. – Yours, etc,


Oaklands Drive,


Dublin 6.

Sir, – If we ever adopt American spelling (September 3rd), would this mean we would no longer have to hear the British term “mum” but have “moms” instead? And would the Irish “mam” or “ma” be confined to history? – Yours, etc,


Glenvara Park,


Dublin 16.

Irish Independent:

In 2003 and 2004 an estimated 30 million people around the world marched against the 2003 invasion of Iraq, with three million people marching in Rome; 750,000 in London and one million people in Dublin.

The invasion was intended to liberate the Iraqi people and also, we were told frequently, to get rid of weapons of mass destruction stockpiled in the country and to especially remove the country’s tyrannical leader, Saddam Hussein. Chemical weapons were found, but hardly any or none of the more lethal weapons of mass destruction. Few could have predicted how worse it would get for the stability of the Middle East. Saddam was hanged, but it didn’t lead to peace in the country as hoped.

A new organisation, Isil, has this year taken over a third of Iraq and Syria as part of their plan to set up an Islamic caliphate state encompassing as much territory in the region as possible.

They tolerate no differing views and their methods include beheading civilians and shooting dead 500 to 700 of Iraq’s army captured in June, according to a Human Rights Watch report.

The UN published a report on atrocities in Iraq this year.

The beheading of two American journalists in the Middle East in the last eight days has US President Barack Obama talking tough, but whether he will follow through is uncertain.

Civilised human beings can’t understand how anyone could behead a person and video it for the internet – the stuff of nightmares. Isil were described in a newspaper editorial as fascists like the Nazis of the 1930s in Europe.

This new group has gained a vast amount of territory in six months and the fear is they may completely take over Iraq and terrorise the population of 35 million.

The government in Iraq is fragile and still in need of armed support from the West. Its brave people who serve in the government are putting their lives in danger all the time.

A special mention too to our Irish UN peace-keepers, who last month rescued UN Filipino colleagues who were surrounded at their post because of the spreading Syrian civil war near the traditional UN neutral zone of the Golan Heights between Syria and Israel. It is a sad litany of violence in the Middle East.

Mary Sullivan, College Road, Cork


Ireland on the edge

What has gone wrong with our country?

We are jailing mothers who decide what’s best for their children.

We are having our budgets being distributed to members of the German Parliament before our elected representatives see them -and this same country is only now deciding to pay compensation for the child victims of their darkest hour of history.

We are members of a Union that operated a rendition programme in Poland.

We have heroin washing all over our once-peaceful towns and villages.

We have court cases costing vast amounts and we are seeing guilty verdicts in our criminal courts receiving the punishment of community services .

We have spent millions setting up a company that is going to charge us for the water that falls out of the sky to flow through pipes that are already in the ground. We have a council of unelected people, namely the Economic Management Council, seemingly deciding our economic future.

We have soldiers on the edge of what is beginning to look like hell on Earth “observing” a ceasefire.

We have binmen that are beginning to look like they have been transported back to the Lockout era of our history.

We have a national broadcaster that seems to have made some very strange editing decisions on what is news and what is not.

We have unknown people running into pubs shooting firearms.

We have a Government with the largest majority in the history of the State with a “new” billion euro. Sure it’ll all be grand.

Dermot Ryan, Athenry, Co Galway


What about ‘our’ games?

Should non-GAA events ever be accorded precedence over Gaelic games at Croke Park?

Tony Barnwell, Dublin 9

Falcao wages a sign of madness

I read on the front page of your paper the following: “United land Falcao on €335,000 a week”. Is there something not quite right about that or is it just me?

Madness – pure madness. It really does take the good out of any sport. Not even our Jim McGuinness is worth that after last Sunday! On second thoughts…

Ah! to hell with it, I must be getting old!

Brian McDevitt,

Glenties, Co Donegal

Children have rights as well

Victoria White’s article of the September 4 is predicated around the assertion that “nowhere in the Constitution is a parent’s right to home-educate made subject to any “minimum standard'”.

This is patently false. Article 42.3.2 explicitly says “The State shall, however, as guardian of the common good, require in view of actual conditions that the children receive a certain minimum education, moral, intellectual and social.” It is clear then that the right of parents to home-educate their children is not absolute.

Rather, it is a competing right to be balanced against the right of the children to receive a certain minimum level of education. How else to ensure this balance is maintained than by some form of mandatory assessment? I fail to see any constitutional issue here.

Jessica Copley, Knocklyon, Dublin 16


When Longford ruled Ireland

Albert Reynolds‘ demise reminds me of the time when Ireland was ruled from Longford.

Albert was Taoiseach; Willie Mulvihill was Secretary General of the GAA; and Cahal Daly (not born in Longford, but he was there long enough for us to claim him) was head of the Catholic Church.

More importantly, my mother used send scratch cards to Mr Reynolds with requests to fix the road to our house. I know he didn’t take bribes, but her letters were always acknowledged and the road was always repaired.

Tom Farrell, Swords, Co Dublin


Time to get fundamental

Sadly – even with the rising barbarity of the nutters of the Islamic State terror group – so many of today’s Western elites, assorted clever people, chaff head celeb-set types, “New Age Tories” and so many other types of the West’s modern-day crusading cappuccino commandos derisively dismiss America’s founding fathers’ great American constitution as an “18th century experiment”!

Perhaps such “educated, but unlearned” fools will soon come to realise that to protect the West’s Judeo/Christian foundations it’s not so much a matter of back to basics, but forward to fundamentals!

Howard Hutchins, Victoria, Australia


Fix flawed prostitution laws

With Mr Carter’s commentary having placed our prostitution laws in the headlines, it should be recognised that our laws, as they stand, are ambiguous as to whom exactly they and their penalties apply, especially as regards who solicits who and what for.

That’s why the actions of both parties need to be absolutely criminalised, and in no uncertain terms, the same way as both dealers and buyers are prosecuted under our drug laws.

Killian Foley-Walsh, Lourdes, France

Irish Independent


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